So How Do We Know They’re Getting the Right Answers?

This was a question posed to me today by a colleague about the impact of staff seeking answers on the web or on our Enterprise Social Network such as Yammer.  The particular example was “what if they ask a question on say, credit policy and the answers that come back to them are actually wrong – and then he acts on that information and it causes some reputation or other risk to our organisation?”

It’s a great question.

Are you or your organisation thinking of the same thing when it comes to people Googling or searching for answers in Yammer?

“Every man should have a built-in automatic crap detector operating inside him.”

Ernest Hemingway, 1954

I was asked to be the ‘drop in’ guest speaker at another team’s weekly meeting today.  This is one of the valuable practices at my work where invitations are extended to each other’s meetings to learn more about what other teams do in our own department.  It’s informal and centred more on question, answer and discussion.

I was invited to speak about my Peer-to-Peer learning project that I had been working on for the last couple of months but recently, this was project was temporarily put on hold.

Instead, I talked about peer to peer learning in general (and yes, linking it to my story of my knitting community of practice).  After all,  informal learning groups are popping up across this organisation.  It’s happening today and it’s happening everywhere – but it’s not on Learning and Development’s radar simply because they don’t control them or know where, when or how they are happening.

Not that they need to thankfully.   The beauty is that it’s happening – and it’s not controlled, measured, evaluated or recorded into an LMS by L&D.

I also quashed the misconception that you need social media for social learning and I talked about how we can focus our efforts less on content creation and more on facilitating and supporting our people to find the answers and workplace learning.  Basically, concentrate on the 20/70.

This then linked into a discussion around the skills required for Learning and Development professionals namely a performance consulting mindset.

A colleague who has an background in performance improvement also offered a reference by Rummler called “Serious Performance Consulting” a book written as a case study on how a company used a performance improvement approach over a training solution to solve the business problem.

Looking around the table, I saw everyone on their iPads, tablets, blackberries and mentioned that in today’s day and age, we can get information instantly.

This is when the question about trusting online information was asked.  There was agreement around the table that this would be a critical issue especially around information that people must act upon in their role and the risk to the organisation if they act on wrong information.

It also had undertones that L&D may be the ‘gate keepers’ to content to ensure the “right”  information is out there.  Although I didn’t dwell on this thought (as I believe it was not the intention and it would have disheartened me entirely) but I did think that the need for some skills around critical thinking in an organisation would be a necessary corporate digital literacy skill set.

My response was that this is where as L&D rather than control that information as it’s likely that what we also give them will also be out of date immediately, that we coach our people to have their ‘crap detectors’ on; to teach them skills around inquiring, critically evaluating and checking the information rather than total acceptance of what is given.

I strongly recommended Howard Rheingold’s book “Net Smart” that covers crap detection and on his site, he even has a mini-course Crap Detection if you’re interested.

Our team is currently looking into creating a Digital Literacy strategy for our employees and it’s evident that ‘crap detection’ must be one of the main skill sets.

But that’s a topic for another day because it is a whole category of new skills specifically designed for people in a organisations – the knowledge workers who already know their way around the computer, the software and the internet but who need new behaviours around finding and sharing information.

Maybe this is our new corporate digital skill set of the future? 

About Activate Learning Solutions

Helen Blunden is the founder of Activate Learning Solutions and Third Place. She has over 23 years of experience within learning and development across private, public and not-for-profit organisations. With a specialty in performance consulting and networked learning, Helen believes that workplace learning is integral to business success. She has a passion for enabling people to learn beyond the classroom and believes in the power of networks and communities to drive collaboration and meaning within the organisation. From facilitator-led instruction, online and blended, Helen deploys social and informal learning such as enterprise social networking, collaboration tools and emerging technologies that have been proven successful and embedded workplace change.
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2 Responses to So How Do We Know They’re Getting the Right Answers?

  1. Thanks David, you’re spot on. Information comes to us in all manners and it’s up to us to critically analyse it, inquire on it, find the source, scrutinise it and then form our own judgments. Sometimes I think we forget that.

  2. David Glow says:

    What I love about perception is that the folks most worried about “bad info” getting out (management) are the biggest manure spreaders in the org. Also, they worry about “Social Media” spreading bad info. Bad info has traveled over cube walls, in halls, and across the floor for years- long before social media was a concept. By making these discussions more public and participatory, the organization has the opportunity to be part of valuable conversations.

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