Level Up Your Social Learning

This presentation was given at the opening of the 2018 AITD National Conference at the ICC in Sydney. It’s best read imagining you are there, with an A4 piece of paper available ready to take notes!

Let’s talk about 20.Capture 4

On one side of your paper I want you to draw a scale from 1 to 20. On this scale I want you to mark out how much time you currently spend on social learning from 1, hardly any to 20, I live and breath social learning. You can mark it out by modes if you like so a T for twitter, a P for with people, an LI for LinkedIn, and E for your enterprise social network.

OK, another scale from 1 to 20

On this one, I want you to mark what value you find in social learning from 1, I could walk away from it all to 20, there would be a gaping hole in my learning without it.

Finally, a third scale from 1 to, yes, you guessed it, 20. This time, marking what value you contribute in social learning, again, you can mark it out according to mode. These scales are to help you reflect on your social learning, but also to provide you with a point-in-time to come back to at the end of conference when you review your notes to see if you improved, ços that’s what we’re here for.

We’re here to talk about levelling up your social learning. The 20 of the 70:20:10 model. Social media, face to face, on-the-job, on the road. And we’re here to talk about YOUR social learning. We L&D people spend all our time focused on everyone else and their development and we risk neglecting our own, so I’m talking about YOU, and YOUR social learning.


Turn your page over and I’m going to show you where we’re headed this morning. Here’s what it’s going to look like. A line across the bottom, a series of boxes up the page and a pot of gold at the top. The pot of gold is the promise of social learning. And it has great promise, which is often unrealised because we don’t know the process. So we’re going to look at what is the process to level up your social learning to get to the promise. You may recognise this little guy, from Doodle Jump on your phone. He jumps from one platform to the next, not in any particular order, and if he falls off, he goes back to the bottom and starts again.


Social learning starts with shaping two things. Yes, those are ears (drawn on the flip-chart, but not shown here).

Firstly, you need to shape who you’re listening to – your network. I want you to think Tinder here because there are two things I think you need when it comes to your network – promiscuity – you need exposure to a wide, diverse range of voices, and selectivity – you want to choose carefully who you listen to from amongst those voices. Scroll and swipe, scroll and swipe.

Secondly you need to shape what you’re listening for – what are the topics that you need to learn about for your role (to do it better), your industry (the one you’re currently in), your profession (because you have to stay up to speed) and your career (because you want to choose where it goes).

This shaping is our base line, our ground zero. As we level up, we’ll fall off. That’s ok, but when we do we need to go back to shaping.


The next few levels are all about engaging. The first is Stealth Mode. Think Transformers here – “Stealth mode activated” (in a robot voice). I don’t like the term lurkers. It has a bit of a creepy edge to it, and it’s a bit passive. Stealth mode is where you’re there, you’re active, but you’re not visible.

Next up is liking. Liking matters, not because the number of likes we get determines our self worth (that’s what Facebook and Instagram are for), but because it helps other people by filtering their content with better quality. If you (and some other quality people) have said that you like something, then it should be better than the next post which doesn’t have any likes.

Level up, comment. And I don’t just mean “Thanks for sharing” or “Lovely post”. I mean compare, discuss, encourage, question, expand, contrast, debate, provoke, agitate, which leads me to the next of my six ideas.

Add value

These three steps (and the other three) in the process (to get to the promise) all have a central idea. You have to add value. In stealth mode, you add value by being there. You might be learning, and not saying anything, but you add value by joining the group, by turning up to the event. Your presence says that this has value and is worth being at.

Your liking things helps others discern what is good in amongst all the noise.

Your commenting adds value and builds on what has been shared.

Whatever social learning you do, add value, don’t just make noise.

But there’s a risk in all three of them. You might turn up to something and it’s a complete waste of your time or someone is rude to you. You might scroll through your feed and find nothing of value. You might comment and get slammed by random internet trolls. When you do, go back to shaping. Follow better people. If you’re constantly the smartest person in the room, change rooms. Follow people who will bring quality content. Use the mute button for those who don’t or unfollow them. It’s ok. In all of this, you need to …

Be safe

You can’t control the trollers (well you can a bit, with the shaping process), but you can control the culture that you create. You can’t stop people mocking you for trying something new, but you can stop mocking others who do. Create a safe space for your social learning by being a safe person to socially learn with.

Connect, connect, connectCapture

Social learning is all about connecting the dots. There are two dots here. Ideas, and people. You may be wondering why I’ve taken the time to draw a cartoon when a stick figure would have done the job. In social learning, people are real people (that’s me, see, curly hair, smile?). Remember in all your commenting and liking that there’s a real person at the other end reading your comments and feeling things.

So first, connect ideas with ideas, content with content. Use a bookmarking tool and tags to group together similar content. Curate things, make lists. Then, connect ideas with people. Not just a broadcast share to your whole network, tag someone in who you think will specifically benefit from the content, email them a link, let them know you’re thinking of them. Lend them a book, show them somethings, use your ESN. Then, connect people with people. Do you know two people who would get on like a house on fire? Introduce them, online, or in person. Don’t walk around this massive exhibition by yourself, go for a walk with someone, talk about the last presentation, join a Working Out Loud circle or a community of practice, go to a meetup, get or be a mentor (try the LinkedIn mentor option).


The final step is to create. I thought about using another word here, as when you write create, people think you have to be creative, actually, let’s use the other word, it’s better. Be generative. You can write a blog or an article, you can make a podcast, an app, you can sketch-note, cartoon, vlog. Heck, write a song if you can! I saw Helen Blunden knitting a QR code once. I don’t think it actually scanned, but that’s kindof the point – not everything you try has to work, but you have to keep trying. So, in that spirit, I’ve written you some poems. They’re in a form a friend of mine came up with called a double – two lines and then a single word. Are you ready?

I’m in love with learning.

Married to improved performance.


light round of applause 🙂

I can’t get away from micro-credentialing.

Recognition of competency stalks me.


See? It doesn’t have to work :), but you do have to keep trying and being generative.

So where’s the promise? (I start taking down the flip-charts and handing them to people, asking them to roll them up length-ways so that the word stays on the outside). The process to the promise involves Shaping, Engaging, Adding Value, Being Safe, Connecting, Generating. Once each one is a tight roll I get the people to help me join them up, eventually making a triangular pyramid of the six rolls.


Where’s the pot of gold? The promise of social learning? The process has these six elements, but it’s not a linear, or two dimensional thing. It’s not perfect either, and it’s not rehearsed (I’m so glad this has worked though!). Social learning involves people, and people are messy. When you involve people, other’s will join in and help! The process to get to the promise is in here (I put my hand into the inside middle of the pyramid) – in the interaction of all of these elements. That’s how we get there.

I’ll finish with one last double.

I’m telling you social learning is worth it.

You have my word there’s a process for success.


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