For all the talk about networks and knowledge sharing, it appears many organizations aren’t practicing it. How is your enterprise approaching these concepts?
In the middle of 2008, a notice appeared on the Informal Learning blog (informl.com) requesting participation in a survey of informal and Web 2.0 learning practices.
A total of 235 responded. Twenty-five percent had less than 100 employees, and 27 percent had 5,000 or more. Half were corporations; the other half academic institutions, government organizations, nonprofits and sole proprietorships. The corporations represented all sectors: IT, services, finance, manufacturing, communications, healthcare, extraction and several others.
The results of the survey served as a catalyst for asking questions rather than proof of what’s going on. The sample size was too small and the selection process too limited for bulletproof conclusions.
However, a somewhat clear picture emerges from the findings. While the access to the Web and use of social media are way up from when Internet Time Group conducted a similar study a year ago, the overall picture is not rosy. Most of the organizations that responded are sailing stormy seas without a rudder:
• Less than half reported that their professionals and/or teams form communities of practice.
• A third of the respondents disagreed with the statement, “People here understand how their work is linked to the overall goals of the organization.”
• Nearly half reported they do not take time to reflect on what they might learn from a major success or failure.
• Most reported that it’s difficult to set up an in-house blog or wiki.
• A strong majority disagreed with the statement that their “formal training is superb.”
• Two-thirds reported that their organizations are slow to change, even when it would be in their best interest.
A recipe for organizational catastrophe and business meltdown is looming here. The respondents said they are zooming into the future on a track leading nowhere. They are not tending their networks. Yet, rather than tending to what will be important in the future, they focus on the day-to-day.
Looking over the survey results, consultant Harold Jarche observed, “Your graphs tell me that around one-third to one-half of respondents say that things are not good in the workplace.” Specific problems include:
• Lack of cooperation.
• No time for reflection.
• No ability to use DIY tools for work.
• No communities of practice for support.
• Lack of professional development.
• Poor training.
The most damning finding of the survey was that only one in four agreed that, “People are growing and learning fast enough with our current programs to keep up with the needs of our business.”
Read that again. Three out of four admit they aren’t enabling their people to grow and learn well enough to keep up with the future. This is corporate illiteracy: the inability to read the handwriting on the wall.
How would your group rate itself? You ought to find out. It’s not difficult. E-mail a survey to people in your organization. Borrow the questions from this survey if you’re in a hurry. (The Internet Time Group study prepared and administered its survey with a free service called Survey Share.)
Invest half an hour to find out how you stack up. If you’re like most of the people who answered these questions, the responses you receive will re-order your priorities.
Communities of Practice: Hot or Not?
The phrase “communities of practice” gets a lot of play in the learning industry. It has long been touted as an effective and relatively simple and inexpensive way to connect an organization’s employees to the knowledge and development resources they need to perform.
Yet, if the results of the Internet Time Group’s study on informal and Web 2.0 learning are indicative of the learning industry at large, then the companies actually implementing communities of practice are in the minority. About 43 percent of respondents said professionals and teams in their enterprise do not form communities of practice.
Moreover, if just half of the 24 percent of participants who were undecided on this question do not have communities of practice in their organizations, then that would suggest that the majority of companies don’t have them.
These results are somewhat surprising, and lead one to a few possible conclusions:
• Other formal learning programs are filling the niche that communities
of practice provide.
• Company leaders are concerned about surrendering control of learning content.
• Many learning professionals don’t grasp the concept of communities of practice.
All of these — and perhaps other factors — could explain the lack of adoption. However, as organizations look to disseminate knowledge and enhance employee performance, greater numbers will likely turn to communities of practice in the coming years.
– Brian Summerfield, firstname.lastname@example.org
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