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Learning 2.0: Beware the Power Law

Excerpted from "A Practical Approach to Leveraging Learning 2.0" in ASTD's March 2011 issue of Learning Circuits

By Aviel Selkovits

The wonderful thing about social media is that it presents a highly democratic space. You can choose to be an active participant in the conversation, building a highly collaborative and creative forum. Or you can choose to be more of a ‘consumer’ of the information, anonymously reading others’ posts and comments.

However there is a dirty little secret to Web 2.0—and thus Learning 2.0, and that is the Power Law. The Power Law, by definition, is a mathematical relationship between two quantities. In the case of social media, it has evolved into a 90-9-1 distribution. Essentially, 90 percent of people using these tools are passive observers, 9 percent are active contributors, and 1 percent are the leaders and creators. While this distribution is perfectly adequate in the world of social media, when it comes to leadership development it can create some hurdles to effective implementation.

The impact of using these tools as part of your learning implementations is that they enable everyone to have a voice and to contribute. As shepherds of organizational development, we have to build accountability around the usage of these tools. The value of the learning activities, and the sense of community created, is greatly improved when everyone joins in the conversation.

Workplace learning and performance professionals need to promote the value of these activities and tools before the learners ever sign online or enter a classroom. As some leaders will be hesitant to be the first to post, consider putting up applicable questions they can respond to, making it less daunting to get the conversation started. Providing meaningful activities and follow-up will build their enthusiasm and accountability, which will drive them to continue practicing and honing their newly learned skill set. But beware: Don’t think if you put these new tools out there that everyone will jump to use them—as with all change, there is an adoption process that has to be managed.

Aviel Selkovits is a former senior consultant in DDI's Learning Solutions.

Posted: 18 Mar, 2011,
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