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Thursday, July 10, 2008


This post is intended to capture a few of the common objections that I hear at various sessions as well as ways that people suggest you overcome those objections. I will update this over time.

Kevin Jones recently went through and captured 15 Objections to Social Learning and some thoughts on responses to these objections:
There's another good post on a related topic - Ten Common Objections to Social Media and How to Respond - includes:

1. I suffer from information overload already.
2. So much of what's discussed online is meaningless. These forms of communication are shallow and make us dumber. We have real work to do!
3. I don't have the time to contribute and moderate, it looks like it takes a lot of time and energy.
4. Our customers don't use this stuff, the learning curve limits its usefulness to geeks.
7. Upper management won't support it/dedicate resources for it.
8. These startups can't offer meaningful security, they may not even be around in a year - I'll wait until Google or our enterprise software vendor starts offering this kind of functionality.
9. There are so many tools that are similar, I can't tell where to invest my time so I don't use any of it at all.

I would also look at establishing policies: Corporate Policies on Web 2.0


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Tony!

Your lists are impressive!

I’m not sure if you have been introduced to the concept of a compexity system – forgive me if you have! If not, bear with me through some learning – this could be a post :-)

The science of complexity systems is a relatively new study. Social learning (however it’s defined – formal or informal) can be regarded as a complexity system.

Today (we) talk about creating our own version of the world (especially through social interaction). To do this (as with any learning) we have to be creative in our own way. The way creativity speaks is through the spontaneity of emergence, through the power of self-organisation and through evolving.

Social earning tends to be self-organising (emergent). Coherent unities can arise without the need for a centralised controller, as in the movement of a shoal of fish. It is also self-transforming, so that the way learning responds to a situation is determined by the learning itself, not the situation.

Social learning does not operate in balance since equilibrium implies death for this (interaction stops so learning stops).

It tends to be nested, scale independent, dynamically self-similar and recursively elaborate (for example by metaphor, the form of the equation for Newton’s 2nd law of motion, f=m x a, can be applied to many different disciplines: distance travelled over time d=v x t, area A= B x L, voltage across a resistor V = I x R, mass of a substance in a given volume and concentration of solution m = c x v, earnings over time at a rate of pay E = R x T, power taken by an electrical appliance P = I x V, energy consumed by the appliance E = Pt, etc, the list goes on!)

Social learning entities unfold from and are unfolded in one another. Whether magnified or reduced, learning maintains a constant bumpiness of detail – like a fractal. Learning evolves through processes that are constant, but that constantly transform the forms – again like a fractal.

The complex nature of social learning is a barrier to people who may not wish to embrace that complexity – hence the objectors that provide you with your lists of objections.

If you look closely through your lists you will find that many objections are based on the unwillingness to accept some aspect of the complexity of learning itself. It is only when someone embraces this complexity that they can learn with confidence from any of: a book, a CD, a DVD, the Internet, a blog post, a comment on a blog, a wiki, a slide-share, a video, a chat at a conference, a chat on Facebook, a tweet on Twitter, a link in

I’m not a curmudgeon. I have no problem with using any of those. But when it comes to learning using social media, 90 to 99% or more of the people who could be most useful to me as sources of learning don’t want to come to the party. Some of them will be among your list of objectors.

I’ve had exhaustive discussions with Michele Martin about this same thing in relation to students and getting all or most of them to participate in online discussion. It just won’t happen.

It is a statistical fact, this 1:10:100 rule – I wish it wasn’t! It (seems) to be as accurate and as dependable as the sun coming up in the morning (never mind the weather).

It is this parameter that makes me so sure (OK, stubborn if you like!) that the usefulness of mandatory blogging, forced social networking, etc and the expectation that if only everyone could see it that way, things would be a breeze, are all great ideas but are all impossible in practice.

Good luck with your project Tony. Remember complexity systems.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

Tony Karrer said...

Ken - I agree that there is new complexity here and I've not really thought about it in the terms you expressed. I somewhat disagree with the level of complexity that you claim around social learning. A lot of my social learning is quite directed and focused. I have an inquiry and I have several ways to ask it of other people (blog, linkedin, social networks, etc.). That's not a complex operation in and/of itself. Yes, it was more complex to build up these sources, but again - each operation is not significantly complex.

I believe that a lot of the complexity you are describing comes from the broader - less directed - types of learning. I can buy that, but in those cases, I'm not looking for a specific outcome.

All that said - you are right that if you compare going to google to search and using a social approach to finding an answer - there's much more complexity in the social. I think we are only debating the level of that complexity.

Your comment - "If you look closely through your lists you will find that many objections are based on the unwillingness to accept some aspect of the complexity of learning itself." ... That's a good insight - there's a lot there that is an unwillingness to face the additional effort.

However, I'm not willing to stop and say - well 90-9-1 rule holds and thus let's not push the 90 and 9 people to adopt more.

The reason I say that is:

* Who's going to produce better at the end of the day: A person who knows how to use Google only or a person who can use Google and also can reach out via social media to help find and answer?

I believe the answer is obvious and individuals and organizations need to wake up to this?

Tony Karrer said...

Ken - your comments have been really, really great. I appreciate the dialog and this one sparked a post:

Value of Social Media

I appreciate the value your insights bring - even if it adds complexity to my learning. :)

Anonymous said...

Ken, you won't be surprised to hear that your comments continue to challenge my thinking. :-)

Like Tony, I hadn't considered things in terms of complexity theory and most definitely agree with you that the complexity of social learning is a barrier to many people. Where I think I differ with you, though, is in accepting that we should just assume that the 90% "rule" is a rule.

If the 90% rule is based on people's difficulties in navigating complex systems, then it may be that the answer is, as Tony suggest, to help people learn how to better navigate those systems. That's actually an area where technology could be helpful, although it may be that it hasn't evolved in the ways we need it to yet to help us better manage complexity.

I also wonder if this isn't to some extent generational. My children and most young people I know have no difficulty contributing to the online conversation. Of course, like most people, they prefer to contribute on their own terms and not because someone told them to write a blog post. It seems like "older people" aren't used to participating, so they may hold back because of that, while younger people are happy to participate, but need an engaging reason to do so. Maybe we have two challenges here. One is to help some people navigate the complexity while the other may be to make our learning and knowledge management activities engaging enough for people to want to participate.

Just some thoughts that spring to mind--as always, I enjoy the opportunity to refine my thinking with you!

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā kōrua Tony & Michele!

I thought that was what The Challenge was all about - challenging thinking. This happens when we learn. Sometimes it's more challenging than others :-)

@Tony - there is a difference between things being complicated and things being complex. A complexity system is necessarily complex as the name implies. Here's a table (if I can put a table in a comment - I'll try) that may explain some of the essential differences between complicated and complex. I believe social learning is complex and the general umbrella of 'social learning' is a complexity system.

Mechanical (Newton)...Adaptive (Darwin)
Machine metaphor......Ecosystem metaphor
Efficiency seeking......Sufficiency oriented
Deficiency avoiding.....Proficiency seeking
Progress minded........Growth minded

Ka kite
from Middle-earth