What if we ran weeLearning inside a company

After reading this post by Clark Quinn today something clicked.

In my day job I’ve been working hard on an alternative approach to workplace learning. We call it Love Learning. The aim is to promote and support independent learning throughout the company, instead of just sending people on courses. The first month or so was a great success, but it’s probably fair to say we hit a plateau in February. Don’t get me wrong, number-wise things are great, we’ve continued to get lots more hits on our intranet and Scoop.it posts. But that’s barely scratching the surface of what we really want to do – change the culture and perception of learning at work.

Launch padTo move forwards we need to connect people, provide support where it’s needed and give them confidence that they can do it for themselves. This probably sounds a lot like the scaffolding Jane Hart has been talking so much about lately and it probably is. But I’m not sure I really like the analogy, probably because I don’t want to be a scaffolder. When I think of scaffolders I think of T-shirt tans and tattoos, parking in the middle of the road, shouting down the street etc.

But I digress.

I prefer to think of what we are doing as creating launch pads. I want to ignite fires, point people in the right direction, then thrust them into orbit.

How are we doing this?

We’ve taken an iterative, agile approach to this, otherwise we’d still be talking about it and planning it. Immersing myself in the world of design thinking has had a profound effect on the way I think and work in a very short space of time. I started work on our SharePoint community site last week. I’ve been putting it off for ages because it was frankly a daunting task. The template is “sucky” at best and I’ve never used Sharepoint before. But by taking some ideas from design thinking, agile and UX I’ve got a minimum viable product that I’m happy for people to try out, in less than a week.

So now we can stop cluttering the intranet with all our posts, which was always a workaround for what we wanted to do, and we can grow our online learning hub. But we’re also pursuing Chatter. Just as Twitter offers a different style of communication to Google plus or blogging, Chatter offers something different to SharePoint. I don’t know exactly how that’s going to work, but it feels like the right thing to do, so we’re doing it. Evidence based, it ain’t.

One to One Support

So far we’ve been meeting one to one with anyone who completes a fairly simple learning needs analysis questionnaire and basically coaching them to come up with ways they can develop themselves without going on courses. This is working pretty well, but we are missing the next step. When people leave that meeting with ideas to try out, we don’t have an easy way for them to share how it’s going, what they’ve tried, what worked and what didn’t. That’s where the SharePoint and Chatter sites will come in, but a lot of people are uncomfortable about sharing what can be quite personal stories online at work. It won’t be easy to get this stage of Love Learning going, but it’s fundamental to the direction we’ve taken.

And now at last we come back to the title of this post. Reading Clark’s post this morning I suddenly realised that we could run live informal learning events across the company. Not lunch and learns those are rarely anything but formal. Not webinars, most people get distracted too easily or just find them boring.

What we need is something more like weeLearning.

Something that really supports social learning, something that promotes and helps new people to meet, something that is driven by the participants, not the business or the trainer. I haven’t got much beyond that, but I’m convinced this is a great idea and I wanted to share it..

Let’s take presentation skills for starters. It’s probably the most popular course request we’ve had this year and last. How do you get good at presenting?


A one day presentation skills course won’t make a blind bit of difference to your presentation skills, if you don’t actually deliver a presentation until six months later. And frankly the content they teach in these courses can be found online, in books, or gleaned from watching TED talks. But the space to practise and get feedback in a safe environment is not so easy to replicate.

Or is it?

If you can get three or four people together once a month to deliver an Ignite talk imagine how quickly they would improve. Watch their confidence grow. Watch their slide design improve. Pretty soon they would want to open up the sessions to a general audience. It could become a great business knowledge sharing tool, or it could just be some fun interesting stuff, or a mix of the two. It could potentially change the way people present in your company forever.

If you can establish something like this within a company it’s going to bleed into your online networks as well. So if you’ve built it and nobody came, it could be a really powerful way to change that.

But how does this differ from a lunch and learn which we see all the time? I think it needs an identity of it’s own. It needs branding and it needs to be something people can own, something they can steer and something they can really be a part of. It also needs to happen regularly.

The one nagging doubt I have is, can it work without beer?

Photo Credit: stevendepolo via Compfight cc

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