Real learning is a part of the work, not apart from it.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Nature finds a way

The 1993 movie Jurassic Park was an amazing film. However it was not the CGI that captured my imagination or even the exciting story line. It was always the man vs. nature / man's efforts to control nature plot line.

The most impactful scene for me was when the main character, Dr. Ian Malcolm, discovers an improbable dinosaur egg.

You see, in the film (if I recall correctly) the greatest scientific minds filled in missing ancient DNA with present day amphibian DNA and ultimately failed at meeting their goal dinosaur breeding. In the face of the egg discovery Dr. Malcolm exclaims: "...that life, uh ...finds a way."

I'm reminded of this quote each time I encounter social learning in an organization. Peers sharing a tip over the cube wall, a brief discussion in the cafeteria, a quick mid-meeting text message, participant chit-chat during a live class and chat window discussions during a's all become quite cliche.

It has also been well documented about organizations that look to snuff this activity out by imposing technical restrictions or creating cultures of fear built on archaic hierarchies of order and control.

Sometimes though, the organization is simply unaware of the potential of social media for learning and they unintentionally prevent these opportunities rather than purposefully crush them. I encountered a group of employees recently, isolated in their geographically dispersed roles, with only a regional level hierarchy for support, no org email access, and limited permissions on a SharePoint intranet at their disposal.

In a low tech effort to improve performance by formal means, a site of curated resources was developed on a SharePoint webpage for this group and it's management to leverage. Just before release I encouraged the addition of a blog to allow participants to share their opinions and uses of the materials. As harmless as it seemed on the surface I had basically slipped in a bit of foreign DNA so to speak.

An email was sent across the org to this group's supervisors announcing the page and asking them to review and share with their reports... and then it began...

Almost as improbable as the Jurassic Park dinosaur egg, posts and comments began to appear within hours. Mind you, there was no introduction, no on boarding, and no training. Almost immediately two employees in two different regions of the country began to collaborate on an idea to improve a critical task related to their role. Later, others joined in and a post titled "Wish List" was created; they started to add comments about system change ideas, needs, wants, and solutions to everyday problems. At last count there are over 15 posts, 90+ comments, and 8 members and growing.

A simple truth revealed - people will connect, people will share, people will collaborate. It's in our DNA to be social, it's our nature and ... that life, uh ...finds a way.
Post a Comment