Social knowledge and learning at BT

I spoke at an Open University event last week on behalf on Learning Pool, discussing the role on communities in social learning and how they can help improve engagement. More on the specifics of my talk on the LP blog in due course.

One of the other presentations, which I found really interesting, was from BT’s Iain Napier on their approach to social learning. This focused on two main initiatives, it seemed to me:

  1. The use of social networking to build communities of practice and interesting within the organisation, and to make the identification of talent and skills easier
  2. Encouraging staff to develop content to share their knowledge with colleagues, creating what are effectively short pieces of informal e-learning

BT use Sharepoint to enable rich staff user profiles listing interests and experience, and encourage blogging, status updates and document sharing to help inform others as to everyone’s expertise and skills.

From what I saw at the session, it looks like one of the most well-used SharePoint instances I’ve ever seen.

The staff generated learning content is published using a tool BT call ‘Dare2Share’ and is mostly video content, recorded cheaply and quickly using Flip cameras and the like.

Towards Maturity have written up Dare2Share and reveal the really interesting statistic that 78% of BT staff prefer to learn from their peers, but that very little attention or resource was put into making this happen.

Here’s a quick video about Dare2Share:

I wonder if it is just as true in public services that staff would rather learn from each other rather than from external trainers and experts? I’d imagine it probably is and the success of networks such as the Communities of Practice seem to confirm it.

It seems key to me that government organisations do more to maximise the skills and knowledge already present in the organisation, especially at a time when recruitment of new skills is tricky and L&D budgets are squeezed.

While technology isn’t of course the whole answer (see electric woks) nonetheless it must form part of the answer. How many public service organisations make the tools available to staff to do this stuff without a fight?

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Dave Briggs

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