The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media by Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner

Reviewed by David Patterson
Most business books on social media have focused exclusively on using it as a marketing tool. Many employers see it as simply a workplace distraction. But social media has the potential to revolutionize workplace learning. People have always learned best from one another and social media enables this to happen unrestricted by physical location and in all kinds of extraordinarily creative ways. “The New Social Learning” is the most authoritative guide available to leveraging these powerful new technologies.
Tony Bingham and Marcia Conner explain why social media is the ideal solution to some of the most pressing educational challenges organizations face today, such as a widely dispersed workforce and striking differences in learning styles, particularly across generations. They answer definitively common objections to using social media as a training tool and show how to win over even the most resistant employees. Then, using examples from a wide range of organizations Bingham and Conner help readers sort through the dizzying array of technological options available and decide when and how to use each one to achieve key strategic goals.
This is a super book giving a great deal of practical advice about how to commence a social learning project, with some very good ideas. It is a little (lot) US-centric, but none the worse for that. I am, however, somewhat taken with the mention (page 25) of how the CIA uses social media to create living intelligence and how individuals must take responsibility for their actions! I wonder if this is still the case, and whether the whole ‘wiki leaks’ furore will put off lots of organisations from embarking upon a social learning approach? In our 2009 report on the UK e-learning market we and David Squire of Desq coined the term “Fear and Fascination” for the views of L&D departments regarding the use of social networking tools to support learning. Given that sensitive data is handled and exchanged using these applications (as per the CIA) the fear factor must be rising, given that the culture of social networking is all about sharing.
Enough of that….the concept of “Intentional Networks” was key to this work…and something we see as of key importance to making social learning work – that is the individuals intention to participate in the network, and organisations need to understand the need to create the culture of contribution!