Originally published October 20, 2022
This is the 84th article in the Profiles in Knowledge series featuring thought leaders in knowledge management. Mark Britz is a performance strategist. He helps people and organizations do better by first being better connected, building on their strengths, and identifying opportunities to improve workflow. He specializes in social learning, culture, organizational design, collaboration, social business, and Personal Knowledge Management (PKM).
Mark is Director of Event Programming at The Learning Guild and Workplace Performance Advisor at Social By Design Solutions, his own consultancy. He is the co-author of Social by Design: How to create and scale a collaborative company. Mark is a frequent writer, speaker, and commenter. He is based in Syracuse, New York.
Mark solves organizational performance problems. Using an array of formal and social strategies, his efforts have altered conventional beliefs about organizational development and have helped companies improve their execution, agility, and collaborative technology use.
He has led the design and development of solutions involving formal, informal, and social learning. Mark promotes the use of collaborative technologies and user-generated content to extend training, enhance peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, and encourage informal learning channels.
- Syracuse University — Master of Science, Inclusive Education
- State University of New York College at Oswego — Bachelor of Science, Secondary Education
- The Simple Shift: Navigating complexity, simply
- Social By Design Solutions: Improve Engagement, Increase Collaboration, Create Continuous Learning
- The Learning Guild
- LinkedIn Articles
- LinkedIn Posts
- LinkedIn Documents
- The Learning Guild’s TWIST
- Learning Solutions Magazine
- Flippancy: The Biggest Threat to Enterprise Social Media
- L&D’s Business Is Not In Driving Social Business
- L&D Needs to Get In The Time Saving Business
- A Tale of Two Socials
- Social Learning Q&A
True social is about openness, authenticity, and honesty.
My take? Social in organizations, like real life relationship building, should take work and using social tech should involve some rigor to build meaningful networks not just get work done. In the long run these deeper activities build stronger, necessary skills. If you already have closed groups now in your ESN, I’d argue that the act of removing them would be a catalytic mechanism that can have far reaching, unforeseen and positive impacts.
Yes, it may be uncomfortable but if we want the openness that we crave and achieve the innovation and creativity we need then just say no and better support people in finding their way in wall-less garden.
Let’s be honest, everyone gets moved a little when someone likes or shares their content online, but this is only for a moment and then the emotion is gone at the speed of the Internet. Ask yourself, what have you “liked” or shared of someone else’s content that you actually remember? Or more importantly led you to think or behave differently? I’d argue that when you put fingers to the keyboard and type a response to engage in additional online dialog it is memorable. It’s memorable and closer to behavior change because it’s done often with careful thought and a more sustained emotional connection to the individual(s) and the content.
So rather than count vanity metrics, we aim to share to start conversations. Drawing on a mantra of mine that “knowledge doesn’t exist within us but between us, in our conversations,” we look to meaningful dialog as being much closer to behavior change than the simple, fleeting click of an icon. We know full well too that we will have far fewer conversations than likes but this is about quality and not quantity.
- The goal of social is to reduce friction.
- Social starts with people not technology.
- Conversation creates movement.
- Strong social cohesion is built in layers.
- Increasing conversation that is the key indicator of progress.
- Practice Transparency and Openness: Show Your Work/ Work Out Loud. Begin by ensuring that all important but not sensitive work is accessible and encourage observation and input by all levels of the organization.
- Reward & Recognize: Be visible in thanking, acknowledging and rewarding sharing and cooperative behaviors. Be diligent in encouraging open sharing of ideas, resources and collaboration. Recognize and praise group inputs and outcomes. Model exactly what you want to see. Encourage leaders to model exactly what you want to see.
- Encourage Curation over Creation: Share resources with the added “why” of its personal value to you — add context. Ensure access to outside information and to internal channels to share. Identify models of proper vetting and context adding to aid in the movement of best of kind resources and information quickly through the organization.
- Formalize Social Technology: Use traditional communication channels (email, meetings) to move people to increased participation on social platforms. Create a simple structure for groups and keep them open vs. closed or private. Have employees complete profiles with an emphasis on skills and interests over titles. Nudge large group emails to be posted on social platforms. Ask sincere questions, to which the answers will help and inform your work.
Let’s focus a little LESS on working to change a leader’s own social behaviors and MORE on helping leaders to change the systems that hinder organization-wide social behaviors.
At its most basic element, learning is about communication. So to be truly realized, (Senge’s 5 Disciplines of) a Learning Organization requires a healthy organizational social structure.
Harold Jarche succinctly stated that “Collaboration is working together for a common objective“. This can be solving a problem, building something new or different and it is very, very different than cooperating which he goes on to state is “sharing freely without any expectation of reciprocation or reward.” When we stop and consider how much of our interactions at work are really cooperative rather than collaborative, we might want to better call it what it is. And when someone talks of a trusting relationship or being part of a community, scratch that surface a bit — all that glitters isn’t gold.
Mark’s comment: Jon, don’t you think this will always be fluctuating? Social being about the dynamic condition of being human and networks being driven by technology (always changing). Competency Models are typically explicit — not that it’s a bad thing but it seems that in a world of (borrowing from Harold Jarche) “perpetual beta” the cycle of explicit-tacit-explicit is rapid, the strength for individuals then doesn’t lie in aligning to a model but the ability to learn-reflect-adjust-learn. Then again, you do note the term “generic” when describing these models and that does allow for some flexibility You stated too that “I believe it is still too early, in 2013, to deeply understand what effective and successful performance in a networked environment looks like” — I would guess that the real measure is not about performance IN the network but more the performance because of it? Excuse my ramble — you’ve given me much to ponder (as usual) and for that — thanks!
Jon’s reply: “I would guess that the real measure is not about performance IN the network but more the performance because of it?” I think this is a very good point. Thanks for expressing it so clearly, Mark!
Mark’s comment: Until I started writing (blogs, micro-blogging) not as often as I’d like of course, I hadn’t truly experienced the immediacy of this public reflective exercise and how powerful it is. The thoughts once written invite global commentary which may or may not be valuable. The real value is in how, once written, the ideas, beliefs, and practices noted reverberate internally.
Mark’s comment: Is KM about collecting data or is it really about sense-making” — An excellent question to start any executive dialog on this topic. Sadly technical systems vs. human systems have dominated this conversation for far too long so it is quite cemented for many. Your 3 points are excellent and success ultimately, and once again rests on trust doesn’t it?
Harold’s reply: That’s what I firmly believe, based on several decades of experience, Mark, but nobody is beating a path to my door to do this.
Articles by Others
- Introducing The eLearning Guild’s Newest Team Member by David Kelly
- MR Digital & Learning Interview by Myles Runham
- Regulating surprises by Dennis Pearce
- Social By Design: A Book Review And Interview by Mitch Mitchell
- The ITA Jay Cross Memorial Award for 2018 by Clark Quinn
- 6 Highly Important Benefits Of Knowledge Management You Need to Know by Dragoș Bulugean
The third annual Internet Time Alliance Jay Cross Memorial Award for 2018 was presented to Mark Britz. Mark has experience both inside and outside organizations and has focused on improving workplace performance. He questions conventional beliefs about organizational development and has championed better ways to work and learn in the emerging networked workplace. Mark is currently at the Learning Guild as well as a Service Partner with the 70:20:10 Institute. He was an early adopter of using social media for onboarding and has long been active on social media, contributing to the global conversation on improving workplace learning.
Culture, the most powerful presence in your organization, is only learned socially & informally. Social Media spreads your culture quickly — for better or worse.
Mark wrote about learning at work:
If we want real learning in organizations we must get back to the core of how and where people learn, and what moves us most. Simply, much learning happens in our work and with others. Organizations/leadership would do well then to have more strategic conversations about how to create more space, more opportunity, and more connection rather than more courses, classes and content.
- SIKM Leaders Community: January 17, 2023 Call — The impact of organizational design on knowledge sharing
- Re-image Organizational Learning
- Why blogging still matters
- A new era of learning and development — People at Work
- Social Learning at Work: A Quick Start Guide — Learning Uncut
- Where can we find inspiration for L&D? — The Mind Tools L&D Podcast
- Organizational design: Should L&D fight the system? — The Mind Tools L&D Podcast
- Social by Design vs Social by Chance — The Mind Tools L&D Podcast
- Social by Design: Revisited — The Mind Tools L&D Podcast
- Revolutionize Learning & Development: Performance and Innovation Strategy for the Information Age by Clark Quinn — Case Study in Chapter 8: Systems Made Simple