After we leave formal education settings, 80% of our learning is of the informal kind; yet only 20% of corporate education dollars are spent on what is most important to us as employees.Why are corporations spending 80% of their employee education dollars on that modest 20% of the learning we do?
So, what is informal learning? It’s that unplanned discussion with a colleague over an issue you don’t understand and glimpsing a new perspective on how to deal with an issue that has arisen. It’s sending an IM to a remote colleague to get information on how the company is implementing a procedure, and then setting up a 10-minute phone discussion to go deeper. It’s bouncing ideas for a new project off a colleague, then asking her to question your perspectives—like a kind of informal coach. These sound like things we do every day, right? Some corporate cultures actively encourage and support these informal ways of learning through trust, technology—IM, Expert Location, or good intranet search capability—and a supportive culture, while others frown on “taking time away from work” to talk to colleagues.
I’ve already blogged here about how much I enjoy using Office 2007. Today I wanted to blog about wikis and blogs. I opened up Word 2007 since I generally like to create things locally and then push them up to the network when I’m ready. I opened Word and clicked on “New” and found two choices; “Blank document” and “New blog post”. Well, that’s kind of cool. Microsoft has already integrated Word and blogging. Might even be able to use Office Live for that...
This brings me to a question that I’ve been hearing a lot from clients lately: Is Microsoft serious about wikis, blogs and other emerging aspects of social computing? The answer is a resounding YES. Wikis and blog are tools for creating content and collaborating. These are markets that Microsoft takes very seriously.
If you haven’t had a chance to familiarize yourself with Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 yet, take a look at the social computing functionality. SharePoint now has the ability to generate wikis and blogs as template types. While SharePoint’s implementation may not be as elegant and full featured as some of the new pure-plays, it is completely and seamlessly integrated into their flagship collaboration product. (Apologies to the folks in Exchange, but let’s face it, you’re email, SharePoint is collaboration) What does this mean? Well here are just a few examples:
Every blog and wiki can be real-time enabled with presence, IM etc. if you are running Office Communication Server
Wiki and blog templates can be augmented through the addition of web parts
Templates can be customized and extended through the use of SharePoint development tools
Not long ago I was spending a sunny Saturday afternoon watching my son play soccer. Among the group of soccer parents gathered on the sidelines that day was Billy Joe Armstrong of Green Day rooting for his son who was playing for the opposing team. Billy Joe was wearing Levi jeans, a t-shirt and black Converse All-Stars. Since I was dressed the same, I asked my daughter Sarah if I was hip like Billy Joe. She explained that just because my 30 year old fashion sense had come back into style it did not make me hip. She also pointed out that use of the word “hip” was very un-hip.Well, I used to be hip.
This brings me to the exciting new phenomenon of social computing in the enterprise, which like Billy Joe is undeniably cool. However, like Levis and Converse All-Stars, we’ve seen this before. The roots of the internet are in helping geographically and organizationally dispersed teams come together to network, solve problems, generate ideas, etc.When ARPANET (the precursor to today’s internet) was a mere four node network connecting computers at UCLA, UC Santa Barbara, the University of Utah and the Stanford Research Institute the initial benefit was that these organizations could use the network to work together on building and expanding the network.
Even the “social” part of social computing is nothing new. Let’s face it, long before wikis and blogs were used to satiate our unquenchable thirst for all things Britney Spears, The Well served the same need for The Grateful Dead.