Technology, learning and knowledge

I had a good time up in Scotland last week, and enjoyed putting together and delivering my talk at the Learning Pool event we ran – which saw a great turnout.

My discussion focused on the use of technology in a time of immense change and budget pressures, focusing on not just the use of social media in communicating and engaging outside the organisation but also how such tools can be used internally to improve the way everyone works.

Not exactly ground breaking stuff, but I think it is certainly an area that few organisations in the public sector have right and also one where genuine benefits, cashable and otherwise could be realised.

Think about it. With talk of budget cuts of up to 40% we are going to be seeing huge amounts of change in terms of personnel, with early retirements, redundancies etc. The issues as I see them are around:

  • Knowledge and learning – how do you record and share what the people working in the organisation know? How to capture what’s in the heads of all those staff likely to leave?
  • Change – how to keep staff engaged with large scale change programmes?
  • Talent – how to make the most of the people that are left. Where are the hidden gems in your organisation, and how much money might finding them save you?
  • Innovation – how are ideas shared and assessed in the organisation?
  • Collaboration – how much duplication of effort is going on? How can communications be improved within teams, departments, the whole organisation, even multiple organisations?

Effective use of social software is no panacea and won’t see all the problems of government disappear. However, current usage is so limited I believe it could have a genuinely substantial transformative effect. I’m hoping to be writing a bit more about this in the future.

One other thing I covered in the presentation is around the development of technology from mainframes to today’s smartphones. Two things are apparent:

  1. Technology is getting smaller and more personal
  2. As it does so, the ability for a central authority to control it diminishes.

How does this affect what I was talking about, in terms of organisations using social tools to work better? I think the key is to focus on the personal aspect of this. Don’t try to force people into using specific workflows to achieve what are generally pretty personal tasks. The way people like to record their learning and knowledge differs, so don’t assume the same tool will work the same for everyone.

Rather, be as flexible as you can, and ensure that as an organisation you can loosely join the small pieces of your employees’ shared knowledge and learning.

Here are the slides – ignore the title on the first slide, I moved on pretty quickly from that.

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Dave Briggs

I'm Head of Digital and Design at Adur and Worthing Councils.

One thought on “Technology, learning and knowledge”

  1. With so many people being made redundant/unemployed could we make more online learning available to them?

    People lose their public sector jobs > catch up/keep up with learning while they have some more spare time > come back to the public sector with more skills

    This is an especially nice scenario if they had (tax) paid for the online learning development in the first place.

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