How to Live Social in the L&D Trenches (or …it’s not easy being L&D)

Kermit the Frog’s rendition of “It’s not Easy Being Green” could be the theme song for L&D folk who are trying to push against the grain of workplace cultures that are heavily siloed , that define learning in terms of content heavy learning events and who see social learning and social media as one in the same.

On top of these internal challenges, learning professionals also have external pressures of learning and industry. We are reminded daily that unless L&D can morph ourselves into social, informal, collaborative gurus  who have their fingers on the pulse of talent and performance , our days are numbered. (is that a DoDo bird I see?)

With all of this pressure , it’s a wonder that any of us can sleep at night.

For those of you who work in the L&D trenches in organizations where the definition of social is a company-wide meeting, I’ve put together a few self-help steps that have helped me keep my sanity and get some sleep.

Step One: Take a deep breath…

Step Two:  Realize that while it appears that while you were grabbing a coffee that the entire learning world, except for your organization, became this social and collaborative utopia, that it is still more of the exception than the rule (especially for anyone in banking, insurance, government, military, and a lot of traditional retail ,large IT…..).

Step 3: Articulate in writing where you want to go – your ultimate vision (even if it does seem like a utopian vision) and then do a reality check with where you are. Once you know where you want to go and where you are you can build a road map for how to get there.  Even if your roadmap only has one social initiative on it – it’s a start. Don’t boil the ocean on this one – think small (tiny). What programs/initiatives are you currently supporting that might be the right fit for early adoption.

Step 4: Understand your company’s culture and how this will impact your initiatives and desire to move out of the dark ages. Recognize that it may require taking a first stop in performance land before you get to social city . This is more eloquently expressed by Harold Jarche“My experience is that it is difficult to move a traditional training organization directly to a social learning focus and it is easier to start with performance consulting and then expand to social and collaborative learning.”

Step 5:  Spend a little time brushing up on the principles of change management. Find yourself a change advocate/champion/enabler partner in your organization (preferably outside of learning) who can help you start positioning and road mapping where in the organization you might find a tiny supportive and friendly space that is also interested in change. Once you can demonstrate success, you will find the culture friendlier and more willing to entertain large plans for change.

Step 6: Continue to follow thought leaders in learning (Jane Hart, Harold Jarche, Clive Sheppard, Jane Bozarth, Marcia Conner, Jay Cross…) but also find those L&D folk that are wrestling with the same challenges as you are (Twitter, LinkedIn, and like-minded communities).




In case you aren’t familiar with Kermit’s rendition – I’ve included it for your viewing pleasure.

4 thoughts on “How to Live Social in the L&D Trenches (or …it’s not easy being L&D)

  1. Totally agree that social learning is it’s truest sense is a bit of a vision of utopia for most hard pressed profit generating organisations. I’m currently blogging on the links between knowledge management and social learning and seeing if there are lessons from KM that we can learn to give us a better chance of succeeding with social learning.

    One little step at a time 😉


    1. John, thanks for leaving your comment and for introducing yourself. I will definitely be following your blog because it’s finding that link and context between the two that will be the ‘holy grail’ for those of us in enterprises where learning is valued, but not at the expense of profit.

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