For three months I have been dedicating myself to learning about social media – how it works, how people use it and why they love it.
I felt instinctively that it would impact social culture, change how people connected with each other and consequently impact corporate culture. After three months study and participation, I am sure that this is the case.
The experience has reminded me of what it takes to be a learner, and to build a culture of learning. I found it pretty humiliating to be a complete novice, to have to ask my children for help on some real basics, and to not know how to behave in the social media world. It is very easy, in those circumstances, to take one of several defensive responses which we have all seen in organizations: The same responses which make it tough to change culture – and to change ourselves:
AVOIDANCE - How can I find other more important things to do?
BRAVADO - Skimming the surface and then persuading myself and everyone else that I had it mastered.
BLAME - “it’s a stupid fad anyway, and just designed for love-sick teenagers - I mean 140 characters how insane is that?!"
The vulnerability of being a learner can be scary, but the prize is so great. Learning is a value that I've found present in those leaders who successfully build a great culture. The willingness to reinvent oneself invites the same willingness in others. And culture change for sure involves reinvention!
Here are 3 steps towards a learning culture:
1. Find people who are better than you at specific things. Study them. Ask for their help.
2. Set aside time with your team with this agenda: ‘The external world is changing. What do we have to learn to do, in order to keep up?’ Keep asking this question after the meeting.
3. Look around at your people. Evaluate their learning mind-set. Who shows humility? Who is prepared to use the words ‘I don’t know’. Who asks for help? Who stretches out of their comfort zone? These are the heroes of the learning culture. Praise them.
And if mastering Twitter would take you outside of your comfort zone, and you want to practice learning I recommend Joel Comm’s book on the practicalities. As well as Chris Brogan's blog and book Trust Agents, on the underlying mindset shifts that are occurring.
They've certainly changed my view of the world.