October 23, 2015

Learning through social networking helps you stay ahead of the game

Continuous learning has always been the prerequisite for success, for both companies and individuals. What is different today is that people are exposed to endless amounts of information, regardless of the time, channel or location. In addition, the innovation phase is much faster, resulting in new solutions, concepts and ideas done at a pace that no one can keep up with.

In this kind of environment, it is practically impossible for people to harness all the essential information by themselves, analyze it critically and find the causalities between the topics. Rather than doing all the research alone, a much better way is to utilize your social networks in the learning process.

Doing it in a structured manner will enable you to increase your knowledge more rapidly, teach others and perhaps even offer new ideas to the experts in that field. Below, I have listed six simple steps to demonstrate how to use social networks in the learning process of any subject:

  1. Understand the big picture and the hot topics. Even when learning with the help of others you still need to do your homework. This helps you interpret the subject specific terminology and define the questions you want to get the answers to.
  2. Talk to an expert. You might already know the person specialized in the topic, but if not, just ask around. It is more than likely that one of your colleagues has specialized in it through projects or research. Talk to them, challenge them and ask for their opinions. Try to identify general ambiguities related to the subject and their root causes. This will help you understand what people who are specialized in the area are struggling with.
  3. Have an informal discussion with your colleagues during lunch or a coffee break about the things that you have found interesting or confusing. Your colleagues may not be the experts on the topic in question, but talking to someone out loud might very well result in having your own “eureka” moment. Also, your colleagues might bring new interesting perspectives that you have not thought about before.
  4. Gather data. Presenting facts is what makes you credible, not flashy PowerPoint slides. Once you have gathered information and insight from others, do some more digging on your own. Look for the most recent research within the field, and familiarize yourself with both quantitative and qualitative data. Summarize your findings into a maximum of three slides. This will force you to be critical, selective and clear.
  5. Present to colleagues. Book a short meeting with a few of your colleagues for an awareness session. Your presentation should be no more than 10 minutes long, followed by a five-minute feedback discussion. Now you have not only practiced your presentation skills, but also offered others new information and food for thought. Good job!
  6. Share your work. As you are now likely to have a ready presentation and a new level of knowledge on the topic, don’t hesitate to share them inside your organization. There is no need to be shy about the work you have done. You will probably spare someone else the task of doing it. As most likely you have now gained expertise that only a few have, perhaps you can even offer your insight to someone else interested in the subject.

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