The role of social networks in the creation of the learning organization
Organizations have been simulated to human brains in their working and networking. The enterprise is believed to be continuously self-organizing and evolving inactivity just like the brain. Both are concerned with intelligent systems and control systems that are flexible and resilient. The learning processes involve various parts of the organization just like the brain in which the different cognitions like memory, spatial orientation, motor functions, and sensory functions all have learning processes and constitute a neural network. This complex neural network is just like the social network of people, tools, groups, and other components.
Knowledge management involves the usage of internal and external knowledge.
Efficient management of knowledge leads to innovative changes and technological competence (Krebs, 2007). Some consultants are advertising the learning culture while others advocate state-of-the-art technology; however, both are essential for success-driven enterprises. Sharing knowledge is another aspect of knowledge management. This is followed by the definition of data, codifying of data, recording it, and then storing it. This database can be frequently referred to
and can be considered as a tool. Simple data may not contribute to competitive advantage. For this, the data may be more complex and intertwined and cause difficulty in codification (Krebs, 2007).
The organization chart is the main component of an organization; it shows the hierarchial composition and who reports to whom. Previously this chart was mostly static without much change. Now it is fluid and keeps changing frequently. In the face of rapid change,
flexibility and adaptivity have become significant features of the organization and they evoke internal changes to the external ones (Krebs, 2007). The exhibition of the chart becomes all the more essential with the fluidity of changes.
The Organizational Network Analysis helps to understand the behaviors within and without the organization. The interactions within the organization and across the boundaries can be mapped by the knowledge networks (Krebs, 2007). They indicate the adaptation within the organization. The hidden dynamics are evident when the ONA is performed by business experts. It is as revealing as X-rays or scans. Useful interconnections can be visualized, measured and benchmarked. Other features that are surmised are “the adaptability, capacity to learn, openness to the environment, ability to span boundaries, brittleness of its structures, probability of project success, and efficiency of information flow” (Krebs, 2007). Where the system has flourished with experts and leaders and where it has broken down for failure of communications will all be obvious from the ONA. The system, the groups, and the individuals can be assessed too. The previous theories of social networking, chaos theory, complex adaptive systems, and others are found embedded in the ONA. It is one complex system of interpersonal communications with each member sending messages to the other in different manners so that they achieve their organization’s objectives (Krebs, 2007).
The intersections of the network are the areas of sharing or exchanging of information. The ONA would indicate where the exchanges are inadequate and where this deficiency needs to be corrected. Advantageous intersections are noted and plans may be implemented to strengthen the exchanges. Even if a few employees are attracted by another competitor organization, the strength of the remaining network prevents any downfall of the organization or knowledge community (Krebs, 2007). More commitment is noted in the employees occupying the key positions of the network. Project teams also hold a central position.
Those employees in the periphery have a tendency to leave the organization. Indirect connections produce better network advantages.
Social networking and Corporate learning
Social networking has become very much a way of the world with the advent of Facebook and YouTube and similar sites. These highly interactive websites allow corporate learning. Corporate websites are accessed by only about 56% of employees (Bersin, 2008).
70% of large organizations have their own sites which help the learning of management functions. However, employees opt for portals of information other than their company sites.
Social networking Applications
Employees contact each other using expert directories and communicate with each other to get solutions for issues they face. Suggestions are provided and information is rapidly exchanged through Dell Ideastorm and My Starbucks Idea (Bersin, 2008). Information is categorized by ratings and tagging in blogs. Expert content may be obtained through communities of practice. Corporate houses like IBM use social networking to discover the experts within their own organization. Learning on demand by global consultants is encouraged. Technical and business information may be shared within the company as in the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Social networking is used by RWD to increase its onboarding program. A program comprising of e-learning with “wikis, blogs, simulations, and social networking pages” may teach new employees the run of the game in their organization (Bersin, 2008). This helps employees who hardly visit their headquarters and who thereby miss the culture of their organization. Social networking helps them to maintain ties with their peers and use the resources of the organization.
How learning organizations use social networking tools
The organization plans and selects an appropriate tool or application which would help to enhance their daily business (Bersin, 2008). A governance model would be selected. Leaders and other people who would become community moderators may be selected and trained. New ideas and discussions would be conducted in the users’ room. Conversations would bring out the basic thoughts of the person involved. Limits are placed on “content authoring, sourcing and rating” (Bersin, 2008). Employees must be encouraged to express themselves boldly and not shy away from expression. Each thought expressed must be attended to and discussed at different sessions till a solution is seen. The activity and findings of the networking must be taken as achievements.
Governance should align the networking with the business activity. Misuse should be discouraged. Employees must participate in networking on a daily basis. Learning professionals improve their acumen through social networking. The challenging business environments depend much on social networking (Bersin, 2008).
Shell had one of the first learning organizations (Skyrme, Insights). A learning organization has been defined by many authors. Nancy Dixon defined it thus in 1994:
“The essence of organizational learning is the organization’s ability to use the amazing mental capacity of all its members to create the kind of processes that will improve its own” (Dixon, 1994). David Skyrme has defined it in a slightly different manner: “Learning organizations are those that have in place systems, mechanisms and processes, that are used to continually enhance their capabilities and those who work with it or for it, to achieve sustainable objectives – for themselves and the communities in which they participate” (1995). This definition points out that learning organizations adapt to the external environment. The ability to change or adapt is a continuous process. Learning involves an individual process whereby each person learns something new. Collective learning is also an aspect. More conspicuous results are possible with a learning organization.
Why are learning organizations necessary?
The search for the seemingly impossible and the drive for continuously improving products and services by looking for innovation ‘breakthrough’ strategies require an organization that is continuously learning (Skyrme and Farago, 1995). Total quality management is an initiative that hopes to discover factors that are responsible for the change. Always it has been the significant human factor. Skills, behaviors, and culture are the human factors that can be changed to convert failure into success. The employees must be primed to be ready for frequent change: flexibility is necessary for coping with dynamic changes. Innovation is fast-paced. Learning can involve new processes, new skills, to adapt and be motivated to exhibit creativity (Skyrme and Farago, 1995). The learning culture would involve the understanding of the environment, practicing free exchange of information, is committed to learning and personality development. The employees also live in an atmosphere of trust and they value people.
The management processes involve the planning of strategies and scenarios (Skyrme and Farago, 1995). Monitoring and analysis of key competitors is an essential move. Information resources management is with new techniques to identify and audit. Qualitative and quantitative competencies are assessed. Groups and teams are developed to reinforce values and develop a vision for the future. Performance must be measured for further investment in learning. Rewards and recognition must be adequately given to the employees to encourage new learning and commitment (Skyrme and Farago, 1995).
Several inhibiting factors have been recognized which stop a learning organization from taking off: “operational preoccupation, too focused on present systems, reluctance to invest in training, hidden personal agendas and lack of empowerment” (Skyrme and Farago, 1995). Adopting a holistic systems perspective should manage to overcome the possibility of hijacking by one’s own staff. Managers need to strive to learn new skills and techniques and then focus on their workforce to continuously develop their skills and commitment through a method of fun and energy. Eliciting the best lies on the shoulders of the managers.
The intelligently controlled flexible and resilient learning organization with its social networking forms is the brain that enables its employees to develop their abilities to the pinnacle and achieve sustained results for themselves, the organization, and the society they live in.
- Bersin, J. (2008) Social networking and corporate learning. CLO Magazine.
- Dixon, N., (1994). “The Organisation Learning Cycle”. McGraw-Hill.
- Krebs, V. (2007), Knowledge Networks: Mapping and Measuring Knowledge Creation. Web.
- Skyrme, D. and Farago, J. (1995) Associates’ “Insights on The Learning Organization” Web.