How Do You Quickly Get Knowledge You Need to Do Your Job Better?

In a blog post I wrote a couple years ago, I shared some thoughts on the future of learning, highlighting the inefficient ways that we currently experience training and education, and suggesting three forces that are shaping the way we get the knowledge we need to do our jobs better. In that post, I said:

  • Informal learning is the new normal (i.e. Google searches, YouTube videos, LinkedIn / Quora / GovLoop question and answer).
  • The real experts are in cubicles, not classrooms (meaning that we learn less from people who stand in front of us in a classroom and more from our colleagues online and in-person).
  • Social networks are the perfect, perpetual classroom (you don’t need to wait for the next training – you can learn right here, right now).

We continue to use old models to train people who need a new way of getting information faster, and it’s costing organizations a lot of money the longer they remain stuck in the previous paradigm.

Social Learning Boot Camp Modeled Social Learning
With that background as context, I was honored to be able to participate as a guest in the Social Learning Bootcamp hosted by Jeanne Meister and her company Future Workplace this past Monday in Georgetown. I was really impressed with how the conference organizer modeled ‘social learning’ for participants:
  • Participants were encouraged to engage in pre-work that got them to interact with one another and primed them for in-person engagement
  • Pre-work was incentivized through gaming and that online interaction was incorporated into the in-person session.
  • Each participant received an iPad and was taught how to use it throughout the session.
  • Participants broke into teams and used the iPad in a hands-on, real-time activity where they created a sample learning video to explain a concept or challenge – in under an hour!

In addition to these practical elements of the training, participants heard from practitioners who shared case studies around enterprise-level learning through internal social networks and gaming. I’d like to give a special shout-out to Defense Acquisition University, who presented on their cutting-edge gaming endeavors.

Key Learning Points from the Boot Camp

Some other gems I heard in conversations and presentations throughout the day:

  • “We are canceling more instructor-led, classroom-based courses than we are putting on due to tightened budgets and restricted travel.”
  • Employers are increasingly expecting their potential hires to demonstrate social media literacy (or training them in that subject)…and applicants are increasingly expecting an open, social environment that welcomes online engagement as part of work flow.
  • The top 3 barriers to adoption of social learning in an organization are: a culture that’s not ready for it, confusion about its value and lack of training on its use.
  • It is not fear of technology, but fear of transparency that inhibit social learning.
  • Culture change happens when an organization identifies the committed leaders, communicates the benefits, and creates social media literacy training programs
  • Social media / learning policy should explain the value, not just the do’s and don’ts (see for examples)

Why the Real-Time Video Project Was Successful

The videos created by participants were great examples of how quick, easy and effective it can be to prepare video for the purpose of training as they were:

  • Created in real-time for just-in-time learning
  • Authentic because it wasn’t over-edited
  • Involved focused, fast production (vs. a long, drawn-out process)
  • Fostered collaborative, social work to get it done
  • “…not just a tech thing” as most of the production process was a dialogue about challenges (45 minutes) that culminated in a tech-enabled product (5 minutes)

One of the groups even used an app called Magisto to add music and some editing – all in just a few minutes – to take their video to the next level.

What Does This Mean for You?

I know of a few agencies who are trying to make this transition to a new way of learning. One example is the National Highway Institute: But I am curious to see if there are others out there who are experimenting with new models of training and education.

Is your agency incorporating social learning into it’s training and education mix? If so, give examples. If not, why not?

Check out the cross-post of this entry at

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Henry Brown

Been away almost a year now, so what I am saying may NOT have any relevance now!

The primary reason that my last agency did NOT incorporate any social learning into their traning regime was simple FEAR of the unknown, or to put it another way, collecting all the students into an auditorium and force feeding them powerpoint presentations was the way a significant percentage of the “trainers”/leaders were taught and if it was good enough for them it was good enough for the new trainees

Andrew Krzmarzick

Any way to make PPTs social, Henry? Put ’em online and let people engage around them? Ask participants to create their own quick explanation of the topic?


We’re still doing training the 20th century way, in so many parts of the government; sit down, stay awake for power points, take a test. All of it so forgettable!

There are some innovative education approaches being tinkered with, for some classes, where more participation is involved, but it really needs to be blown wide open with the type of activities that Andrew described.