Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

30 March 2016

Socially Acceptable

Clark @ 8:07 AM

I was talking with my ITA colleagues, and we were discussing the state of awareness of social learning. And we were somewhat concerned that at least from some evidence, there’re some misconceptions around about social learning. So I thought I’d take another shot at it.

First, let me make the case why it’s important. There are number of  reasons to be interested in social learning:

  • it’s more natural: our learning mechanisms were social before they were formal
  • it’s deeper learning: the processing that goes on through knowledge negotiation leads to more flexible and longer learning
  • it’s about innovation too: with problem-solving, trouble-shooting, research, design, etc, you don’t know the answer before you begin, so it’s learning, and the outcomes are better when done socially

This is only a start, but I reckon if those don’t make the case that you should be taking a serious look at incorporating social business into your organization, you are not really concerned.

Then, let’s clarify what it’s not. Social learning is:

  • not about (just) formal: as suggested above, social extends from formal out to informal to being an essential part of how business gets done.
  • not about social media: social media is  a tool to support social learning, but it’s not the focus
  • not a discussion forum available during a course: you need people interacting around artifacts – posts, pages, videos, etc – to generate meaningful outcomes
  • not about getting people together to discuss a problem without proper preparation

So what is good social learning?  Good social learning is driving interaction around work (whether real or designed for learning). Good social learning is:

  • communicating by pointing to relevant new information
  • curating resources, not just for yourself but also for others
  • being transparent about what you’re doing (and why), showing your work
  • discussing different ways of getting something done
  • collaborating to develop a shared response
  • tapping into the power of people
  • developing a shared understanding of how to work and play well together, and using it

At core, it’s really about performing better.  And that should be your focus, no?  So, are you ready to get real about social learning?


  1. Absolutely insightful, Clark. Gives a whole new insight into how social learning works, your post. I love the way you highlight the people factor.

    Comment by Nirmal Ranganathan — 31 March 2016 @ 9:49 AM

  2. Good, succinct push for REAL LEARNING!
    Another term “Informal Learning” should perhaps be blended into Social Learning.
    On the side I teach ESL and encourage my students to use “social” mechanisms to learn–more “natural” ways to acquire language skills, so I see this as parallel to your suggestions.

    NOW–here’s the challenge: how do we convince hardened, traditional management–especially management in federal government–to realise the importance of social/informal/natural learning–and put funds into fostering that as opposed to the shallow learning in formal settings?

    Ideas anyone??


    Comment by David Salusbury — 4 April 2016 @ 9:25 AM

  3. Well, David, funny you should say that, I wrote a book about going ‘beyond the course’: Revolutionize Learning & Development ;). Maybe you could help those folks see it? I found out an individual introduced it to his Government org, and they seem interested (e.g. are bringing me in to talk to them). Or you can talk 70:20:10, or just ask them “how did you learn to do your job? How much was formal courses?” Good luck!

    Comment by Clark — 4 April 2016 @ 10:05 AM

  4. […] Blunden dispels in her article “4 Myths of Social Learning“. In his article “Socially Acceptable” Clark Quinn clarifies what social learning is not, and what good social learning […]

    Pingback by Best of the Blogs - December 2016 - Social Learning - Superb Learning — 1 January 2017 @ 4:37 PM

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