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Social Learning Strategies Checklist

January 12, 2010

Kevin D. Jones and I are doing a session at Training 2010 titled Defining Your Social Learning Strategy.  As prep for this, we’ve put together a comprehensive checklist of Social Learning Strategy topics that learning professionals and executives should consider when thinking through their objectives and plans.   Here is a link to the doc, but if you would prefer to read it in-line, the full body of the doc is below.  Let me know what you think we missed and we’ll update it.  In the event that you want to use this for your own initiatives, all we ask is that you adhere to the  Creative Commons Share Alike license.

Introduction to Social Learning Strategies

Organizational adoption of social media as a comprehensive learning strategy is one part software rollout, one part transformational change, and one part large scale corporate initiative.  Depending on your initial focus, it might involve a single cohort group, your whole company, your partners or suppliers, your clients, or even the public at large.  Regardless of your scope, there are a number of critical items that you must address in order to achieve success.  While you may not need to address all of the issues below on your particular initiative, you should at least consider the implications and issues for each item below, and where necessary, develop a plan of action to address those that are relevant to your situation.

Checklist of Social Learning Strategies

Cultural Issues Related to Social Learning
What do you want it to be?  What is it today?

  • Openness vs. planning?  Where is your balance point?
  • Autonomy and self-direction vs. top-down mandates?  Where is your balance point?
  • What do executives, key stakeholders and “rank-and-file” think about social media and sharing?
  • What are your organizational attitudes about transparency?
  • To what extent do learners take personal responsibility and accountability for their learning?

Social Learning Approaches and Methods
What “kind” of  Social Learning models are you pursuing?  How do they integrate?

  • Codified?
  • Collaborative?
  • Emergent?
  • What kinds of social learning interventions do you need?
  • Do you need focused Communities of Practice or decentralized social learning that is part of all learning experiences?  Or both?
  • Will you pursue a federated model and use best-of-breed from multiple provides with a single or multiple aggregation points?
  • Will you use a unified suite that offers core social media applications, such as SharePoint or Jive?
  • How will your social media elements interact with your Learning Management System?
  • If “social learning” happens outside the LMS, what will happen where?
  • If “social learning” happens outside the LMS, how will you see a unified view of learner activity?
  • Where will you keep the “profile” of record to avoid having multiple learner profiles across multiple systems?
  • If you use a federated approach or multiple systems in any way, how will ensure that learners can discover people through content, content through people, content through content, and people through people across your systems?
  • If you use a federated approach or multiple systems, how will you search?
  • If you use a federated approach or multiple systems, how will develop recommendation, reward, and recognition strategies?
  • If you use a suite approach, how will you address gaps – missing wiki, missing microblog etc…?

Social Learning Planning
Who owns what?  How will get from point A to point B?  How will you mitigate risk?

  • What kinds of social media are already being used in the organization?
  • For what purpose?
  • Who owns them?
  • What kinds of learning communities do you want to help along through hands-on nurturing?
  • What kinds of learning communities do you want to more proactively manage and plan?
  • What are the problems you are trying to solve?
  • Who is your target member for your community?
  • What are the problems your community members are trying to solve?
  • If the problems are solved, what does success look like?
  • If the problems are solved, what is the impact of success?
  • What is your Social Learning Policy?
  • What is your plan when these policies are breached?
  • What is in your Miss Manners Guide to Social Learning?
  • Who is on your Social Learning Governance Board – IT, Legal, CLO etc…?
  • How will social learning activities factor into key performance indicators and performance reviews?
  • What does IT own?  Some suggestions:  security issues, archiving, technical issues, deployment, options, aggregation, report consolidation, integration fulfillment, report fulfillment.
  • What does Learning own?  Some suggestions:  strategy, cultural readiness, “tools” training, moderation, member management, community management, programming, integration requirements, reporting fulfillment with built-in reporting tools.
  • What does Legal and Compliance own?  Some suggestions:  archival strategy, social media storage requirements, approval strategies for sensitive content (which might be all content), member management and “flagging” policies, reporting requirements for all of the above.
  • Who will support your organization’s use of social media?  Technical support?  IT?  Learning?
  • What is your start point in terms of participants and technologies?
  • What is the long-term rollout plan?  What social media tools will be turned on when?  When you do turn on new functionality, what is the trigger – time, membership, activity?
  • Will you organize content topically, hierarchically by division, unit etc…, or by functional area?
  • What is your launch strategy to drive participation? (more below)
  • What is your moderation strategy?
  • What is your reporting strategy?
  • Who will own your programming schedule?
  • How will you identify champions and key influencers prior to roll-out and on an on-going basis?
  • Who will be responsible for defining content categories and the overall ontology of your social learning content?
  • What is end of life or end game for your learning community?  Does the community evolve into something else?  Is it archived?  Is there a planned obsolescence because it’s a one-off in response to external factors what will change?

Social Learning Launch Activities
How will you quickly achieve critical mass?  How will you sustain and grow the initiative over time?

  • What other corporate initiative(s) is the launch point tied to?
  • How will you drive traffic and participation in the “early days”?  Some suggestions:  competitions, rewards, “forcing” through changed process, well-planned programming schedules, middle management expectations, senior level management modeling, social media events – wiki barn raising, live chats, team video jams etc…
  • Who will be responsible for enforcing your policy and procedure changes?  For example, if learners are not supposed to answer questions of each other via email, but through the wiki or an FAQ discussion board, who will be responsible for enforcing the change?
  • Who will be responsible for “seeding” content before go-live?
  • Who will communicate the launch?
  • How will you ensure that learners have the necessary skills and tools to participate in the conversation and sharing?  Things to consider:  training on the social media tools, training on social media concepts, lots of early recognition and praise.

Social Learning Technical, Legal, Compliance Issues
How will this effort fit into existing corporate governance strategies?

  • What is your security plan to prevent unauthorized viewing of sensitive data?
  • What is your data recovery plan in the event of corruption, server failure etc…?
  • What is your plan to communicate the security so that users can help safeguard sensitive content while feeling secure enough to freely share within the defined parameters of the site?
  • What is your records retention policy?
  • What is your content permissions policy?
  • Do you need a “contact” permission policy to prevent your SME’s or other experts from being overwhelmed?
  • Do you have a “Do not discuss via Social Media” list?  What is it and how will it be communicated?
  • What kinds of topics require “pre-approval” before posting live to the site?
  • What kinds of topics must include “report violation” options after they go live?
  • Do you have a list of keywords that should be redacted or replaced?
  • Do you have a keyword list that should trigger notification to SMEs, Legal or Compliance personnel?
  • What is your reaction plan to a breach of policy?  Who owns it?  Who enforces it?

Social Learning Communities in the Extended Enterprise
Planning for community members who are “outside” the company walls…

  • If you have external audiences, suppliers, partners, clients, etc… in addition to internal audiences, what is your plan for all of the above for your external audiences?
  • What is your strategy for leveraging public social media channels?
  • Is the Learning group the lead or is Marketing, Customer Support, Product Management, etc…?
  • How will your social learning strategies compliment your marketing, customer support, product, etc… strategies?
  • How will you leverage content between various constituents?
  • Do you need to have “blended” areas where clients, employees, suppliers etc… co-mingle in a shared space with access to shared content?
  • What role do your external members play in community management, programming or moderation?

Social Learning Community Management
How will you manage and grow your community over time?

  • Who will be in charge of community management?
  • What is your moderation strategy?
  • Who is responsible for moderation?
  • How many months in advance will you publish your programming schedule?
  • How will you reward and recognize key contributors in ways that increase internal motivation?
  • What sort of member management policies do you need?
  • Who enforces member management?
  • What role will senior leaders play in contributing to the learning community?
  • How will you market your successes and the growing value of the content?
  • How will you promote new content, new members, new groups, and new topics?

Social Learning Professional Development, Skills, Competencies
What kinds of skills and competencies do you need to develop as a learning professional?

  • Become a Social Media tools maven – wiki, video, podcast, blogging, microblogging, etc…
  • Understand key concepts of Social and Cultural Anthropology
  • Understand key concepts related to Team Building and Team Dynamics
  • Understand key concepts in Social Psychology
  • Understand key issues of self-efficacy as it relates to social media: trust, belonging, self-confidence, self-direction, motivation, skills
  • Knowledge of moderation strategies and key moderation concepts like seeding, facilitating, autonomy, respect, and flow
  • Knowledge of key community management strategies including programming, reward and recognition models, advertising and awareness campaigns, member management
  • Ongoing professional development by networking outside the company through social learning

Social Learning Strategies, Models, and Roles

September 18, 2009

I’m presenting a new deck tomorrow at a pretty big company.  I’m not sure that I can name them so I’m going to err on the side of caution.  The basic gist of the talk and the follow-up workshop is “”typing” your social learning initiative.”  Many months ago I came up with this idea of “typing” learning needs in a similar fashion to a Myers Briggs.  I’ve chronicled the history of this idea and related ideas in other posts.

So I’ve taken this to the next level and created a kind of learning needs assessment framework.  I call it the ECCO model, borrowing from the terms Harold and Jay used in describing some of the underlying concepts.  ECCO is Emergent, Codified, Collaborative Opportunity Model.  You use the framework to determine whether your primary learning needs for any given opportunity or initiative are Emergent, Codifed or Collaborative.  From there, you map to interventions.  It still needs work, but I think it’s a good start.

 The deck and the Word doc provide some additional explanation and descriptions, but I’ve also included the raw text here to make it easier to find via search:

The ECCO Model
(Emergent, Codified, Collaborative Opportunity Model)

  • For each of the questions in each category, answer on a 1-10 scale.  For percentages, round to the nearest 10% and reduce to a 1-10 number.
  • Average the score for each overall category by adding the score for each question and dividing by 10.
  • Plot the score for each category on the provided chart.

Emergent Questions

  1. To what extent will your business or initiative be dependent on the creation of new ideas, new processes, new products, or new services to drive key performance indicators? (10%, 20% etc…)


  2. How much of your team’s intellectual effort will be expended in solving novel challenges or problems?


  3. How much of your team’s intellectual effort will be spent creating new solutions to existing problems or new problems?


  4. What percentage of your team’s best practices will need to be based on principles and theory (as opposed to concrete steps and rote processes)?


  5. What percentage of your best practices will emerge “from the trenches”?


  6. To what extent will you need to rely on knowledge sharing among diverse groups either within or outside the company walls to drive key performance indicators?


  7. When you think about a core contributor on your team, how much of his or her expertise is a result of superior synthesis, invention, or sense-making sorts of skills?


  8. For the majority of your core initiatives, how important is a diversity of perspective or expertise in achieving your project goals or key performance indicators? (1-10 with 10 being the highest)


  9. In terms of succession planning and talent identification, what percentage of your existing “experts” and leaders were identified because of the admiration and esteem of their peers?


  10. How often do coordination and issue resolution happen through the ad hoc assembly of networked teams or individuals (versus through formal hierarchies)?


Total Score for Emergent Questions


Average Score for Emergent Questions




Codified Questions

  1. To what extent will your business or initiative dependent on the efficient execution of known best practices or processes to drive key performance indicators? (10%, 20% etc…)


  2. How much of your team’s intellectual effort will be spent training on known best practices and processes?


  3. How much of your team’s intellectual effort will be expended in ensuring adherence to known best practices or processes?


  4. What percentage of your team’s best practices will need to be based on established steps and rote processes?


  5. What percentage of your best practices will emerge “from on high” – SME’s, senior leaders, compliance officers etc…?  


  6. To what extent will you rely on efficient execution of homogenous, geographically co-located teams to drive key performance indicators?


  7. When you think about a core contributor on your team, how much of his or her value is a result of the correct application of accepted processes, rules, or physically repetitive actions?


  8. For the majority of your core initiatives, how important are a shared perspective and acceptance of authority in driving key performance indicators?


  9. In terms of succession planning and talent identification, what percentage of your existing “experts” and leaders were identified through longevity, established metrics, or manager opinion?


  10. How often does coordination and issue resolution happen through existing teams and formal hierarchies?


Total Score for Codified Questions


Average Score for Codified Questions





Collaborative Questions

  1. To what extent will your business or initiative be dependent on collaboration to drive key performance indicators? (10%, 20% etc…)


  2. How much of your team’s execution is dependent on specialized knowledge?


  3. How much of your team’s execution is dependent on the sharing and coordination of distributed expertise?


  4. How much of your team’s intellectual effort will be expended in collaborating to develop known best practices or processes?


  5. What percentage your best practices and domain expertise are known in “pockets” organized by geography, shared interest, or network affiliations?


  6. What percentage of your best practices will emerge “from group consensus”?


  7. To what extent is your team organized around common job roles and functions? (Retail or early childhood education would be 90% or more – identical job roles in multiple physical locations.  A biotech or high tech would likely be far less – similar jobs in some cases, but dissimilar responsibilities.)


  8. What percentage of the problems faced by your team members are likely faced by other team members in identical job roles?


  9. When you think about a core contributor on your team, how much of his or her value and influence is a result socially recognized expertise?


  10. To what extent are key performance indicators driven by socially-validated domain knowledge?



Total Score for Collaborative Questions


Average Score for Collaborative Questions


CEC - Codified, Emergent, Collaborative

CEC - Codified, Emergent, Collaborative

The Learning Long Tail Webinar and Article

September 16, 2009

So hey look at this – a new blog post!  Crazy I know.  For those of you that have been waiting, my apologies.  I totally underestimated the effort of onboarding at a fast moving company like  The good news is that I’m back and with a bang…

I’ve written two articles in the past month for Learning Solutions magazine and I’m doing a webinar this coming week with none other than Ray Jimenez.  Hoo ra!  Then just a few weeks from now, I’ll be doing a webinar with Claire Schooley of Forrester, then another with Bersin & Associates.  And in October, I will be writing the featured article for Learning Solutions.

Crazy right?  But wait, that’s not even half of it — I’m also speaking at the the CLO Symposium, ASTD VOS, ASTD Ohio, ASTD Boston, and a virtual ASTD Benchmarking forum.  If that wasn’t enough, I’m also doing two briefings on the future of learning for two very large Fortune 500 companies.  And all of this happens over the next month and half!  Needless to say, I am pretty damn busy.

So here are some of the upcoming gigs and some links:

Next week on Tues, September 22nd at 1:00 pm, Ray and I are going to be doing a webinar on the Learning Long Tail.  I’m going to present the meat of the article I did for Learning Solutions, and Ray is going run through his learning framework, specifically addressing how the introduction of social learning changes roles, behaviors, and responsibilities for learners, SME’s, and instructional designers.  This should be a really solid event.  We’re planning to leverage Twitter and chat pretty extensively during our session.

On September 29th at 1:00 pm EDT, Claire Schooley and I are doing a webinar on the “The Top 5 Reasons LMS Implementations Fail and How to Plan for Success.”  I’ll have details on this one shortly.  Claire is going to present some of her findings on this topic, but we’re not doing a standard webinar presentation — we’re going to do it interview style.  How cool is that?

I’ll have more to share in the coming weeks.  Thanks for your patience.  The bad news is that I kept you waiting.  The good news is that I’m back with a vengence.

Rewards and Exemplars

June 26, 2009

Wow.  What a week!  It’s been a long, long time since I’ve on-boarded anywhere, and I’m feeling it.  It sort of like if you haven’t been to the gym in awhile, you know?  That first work out leaves you sore for days.  In this case, it’s my brain.  Ding, ding, ding…  I’m full.  LOL.  It’s a good feeling though.

The team continues to impress, and I keep finding little nuggets that I love.  Two examples:  Learn gives out reward “tokens” to clients when they act as a reference, refer prospects our way, speak on our behalf, write on our behalf… and on and on.  These tokens can be used as cash to buy services or solutions from us.  How cool is that?

They have a similar program around employee performance. employees who are caught doing outstanding work or who are identified as key contributors by clients can receive cash awards or non-monetary awards like additional time-off.

Needless to say, Learn has really nailed the concept of “rewarding performance.”  The rewards aren’t so big as to become an extrinsic motivator, but they aren’t too small to go unnoticed.  Rewards can be tricky; for most people, they’re not really about money as much as they are about recognition and feeling appreciated.  And for the company, it’s not only about acknowledging and rewarding good people, it’s about identifying exemplars and models of behavior that result in desired performance.

Another nice aspect of the program is that any employee can nominate any other, which brings a nice peer-to-peer, social aspect to the model.  After winning an award, the employee is listed on an internal LearnCenter site (our intranet) so that others can see who won.

This week I suggested that we interview these top performers with a Flip and then post the videos to YouTube.  From there, we can link the videos back into our Facebook site and into our LearnCenter listings.  That way we can share these great folks with the world, and our own internal employees can learn more about their ass-kicking colleagues.  Do you know what happened when I suggested this?  They said, “Awesome idea; let’s do it…”  Have I mentioned how much I love it here?

Yeah, so that’s my first week.  Good stuff.  By the way, it turns out that I’m going to be at SHRM next week in New Orleans.   Hopefully, I’ll have an opportunity to live blog or live tweet a session or two.  If anyone wants to connect while there, leave me a comment or hit me up on Twitter: @dwilkinsnh.

Why I am going to miss Randy Saari

June 24, 2009

So a few days ago, I talked about my departure from Mzinga and alluded to the loss of some talent over the last couple of years.  I’m sure some may have interpreted this as griping.  I’m equally sure that my former colleagues at Mzinga weren’t so thrilled with me… ; )  But I think after 12 years, I get to have a little fun, right?  Today, Randy Saari, Senior VP of Sales wrote this as a comment / rebuttal:

I also agree that some amazing talent has left Mzinga…like all companies. I feel compelled to point out that amazing talent still remains at Mzinga. With the changes at Mzinga we have promoted a whole new generation of “A” players in services, customer support, marketing, finance, solutions architects, product management, engineering, analytics, advanced engineering and operations. These are experienced professionals that continue to get high marks from our customers. When you layer on some uniquely competitive products and concept to completion services, Mzinga will continue to deliver world class solutions with some of the highest customer retention rates in the industry.

Great stuff right?  In reply, all I can say to this thoughtful, well-written comment is “Well done.”  And “I agree.”  Those who remain at Mzinga are pretty kick-ass too – the Jody’s, Matt, Meredith, Joel, Mel, Annie, You, Eve, Alicia, Mike…  I never meant to imply that there isn’t a deep pool still there.  Or that the product isn’t impressive and well-positioned for the coming changes in the market.  It is.  And I have no doubt that under your leadership, the sales team will deliver and fulfill the promise of what’s been built there over the last few years.

I’m gonna miss you, my friend.

Day 2 at

June 24, 2009

Ok, so I made it through my first two days at Learn. You know that expression “drinking from the fire hose”? Make that four fire hoses. I’m simultaneously trying to get a handle on product, sales, marketing and overall company vision and strategy. Thank god I don’t also have to learn about the LMS part of this equation as well…

What’s it been like at Learn?  Three things have really jumped out at me:

  1. The company here is very team-oriented. I got a few dozen heart-felt “welcome to the company” messages today, and this evening, I was having simultaneous email conversations with about 10 different people at around 10:45 pm. To a person, everyone I met has been gracious, passionate, and relentlessly focused on winning. It reminds me a lot of the amazingly fun and kick-ass times I had at Knowledge Impact just after the launch of Firefly. There is a “can’t lose” attitude here that is infectious, even for an old salt like me.
  2. The product is way better than I assumed.  Virtually all paths forward from where we are right now lead to all sorts of kick-assery for the competition which is exciting.
  3. On several occasions so far, I’ve been briefed about the future direction and overall strategy for the rest of 2009. And in all cases, for want of time, I’ve heard maybe 20-25% of the story before getting pulled into something else (normal new hire craziness).  So for two days, I’ve done what I’m inclined to do in these scenarios: I’ve filled in the blanks with logical next steps, future evolutions, connections to other features.

    This evening, for the first time, I saw the complete, high-level PPT overview for many of the product features and themes that I had been building in my head.  In every case, the existing product strategy and direction mapped pretty much exactly to my “fill-in-the-blanks” product strategy and direction. What does this mean?  Just two things – 1) the team here knows their stuff, and 2) this is a really good fit for me.

So after two days worth of demos and conversations, I’m happy to report that I’m even more jazzed about my role here and’s potential to achieve true greatness in our space.

As to this blog, once I get my sea legs, I will be fine, but the next few weeks are going to be busy busy so don’t be surprised if I go dark for days at a time.

On a totally unrelated note, does anyone know of any good talent management, workforce 2.0, or competency / performance blogs to follow? I need to re-immerse myself in this world as quickly as I can, but I’m a bit out-of-touch on the best blogs in these arenas.

Dave Wilkins,, and Talent Management

June 21, 2009

    So I guess the title gives it away, right?  ; )  Today I start a new job at as Executive Director of Product Maketing.  I realize that this may surprise some, especially given my leadership of Mzinga’s social learning strategy.
    It’s about talent management.  They offered me an attractive pay-for-performance compensation package that appealed to my “kick-ass and take no prisoners” competitive side.  And they didn’t pussy-foot around the details.  They offered me a good package out of the gate and practically dragged me to headquarters by the scruff of my neck.  It felt nice to be wanted.  Who doesn’t like that feeling?  But they also moved fast and executed well which, coupled with the pay-for-performance comp plan, also suggested a culture built around perfomance and flawless execution.  I’m ready for a team that will come up with a plan and then kick it’s ass over and over until it’s done.I was also impressed by the extent to which Learn “eats it’s own caviar.”  In the first five minutes of my interview, JW (COO) showed me how they use LearnCenters® internally as intranet sites through which they drive most of their internal collaboration and knowledge sharing.  Did you know that over 60% of employees work remotely?  This isn’t just social media fun and games, it’s how they actually coordinate and do most of their real day-to-day work.  This is workforce 2.0 kind of stuff.

    They also showed me how they also use their LearnCenters®, not only as client portals, but as the platform driving their entire externally-facing website.  First, how cool is that?  Second, think about what this means in terms of their world experience with new models of client support, client engagement, and communication and sharing across the extended enterprise.  They also talked to me about their committment to execution and client satisfaction.  Did you know that Learn typically signs clients to six month contracts, after which they can switch to month-to-month contracts?  Why?  Because if you are committed to client satisfaction and client success, you earn it day in and day out.  And if you truly respect your clients, you empower them make the choices that are best for them, even if that means a parting of the ways.  Powerful stuff.   Attitudes like these are also probably why Learn continues to be the most highly rated vendor in terms of client satisfaction and why so few of their clients ever feel the need to leave.

    So ok, you get it, they seem like a good company.  What about all that social learning stuff I’ve been talking about?  My committment there is unwavering, and from what I’ve seen already, Learn has some pretty crazy possibilities in this regard.  Do you know that they have a B2C offering called Personal Edition (LPE)?  It’s basically a site where job seekers or existing employees can “skill up” in a particular job or role.  Learners earn a Skill Score® which then indicates some level of competency in that job role.  Imagine if we married this to some of the ONA concepts I’ve been talking about?  Or maybe we marry it to reptuation management?  In either case, the idea is to connect individual achievement with group dynamics – cool stuff.

    Learn also has a customizable form builder, FormFlow®, which provides all sorts of intriguing options around new models for blogging, discussions, wikis, microblogging, idea sharing, and FAQ engines.  They have deep social profile technology which is already being extended, and web services hooks into multiple entrprise level apps.  So again, think about the big picture – personal HR data, CRM data, ERP data all feeding a central profile via web services, a profile which is further enhanced through social and personal data added by the employee.  They are already very far down this path.

    Suffice to say, I’ve already had like a bajillion ideas of how some of the social concepts I have been kicking around for around nine years now could find their way into the platform.  The ideas above are the obvious ones.  I’ll share the less obvious ones once they come to market… ; )  

    So am I excited?  Hell yeah.  I’m going to miss some key people at Mzinga, most notably Randy Saari (who is hands down, the most impressive leader and sales VP I have ever known) but I’m excited to meet my new team at  And I’m anxious to get the party started.  For the first time in many years, I have that nervous, “the game is about to start” feeling in my stomach.  The good news is that I’ve been training and preparing for this moment for the past 15 years, and it’s no longer a question of being ready, it’s only a question of many goals we’re gonna score.  Based on how I feel right now, I’d put that number at a “whole shitload.”  Hoo ra!