Friday, 11 February 2011


(With acknowledgement to Charles Jennings of the Internet Time Alliance for helping me recall this superb example……)

Once upon a time (all good stories start like this!) there was a really brilliant team who succeeded beyond their wildest imaginations.  They did so because they simply set out “to be the best they could be” and believed that they could get there.

They were a group of people who believed in their own skills as individuals and who trusted one another to achieve their goals and to provide support when needed.

Their leader, a tough minded man with huge ambition and high standards, but who was in the end compassionate, supportive and passionate about improving performance through personal learning, believed in challenging people to achieve beyond where they believed possible. 

Daunting tasks were set, with seemingly impossible outputs required and against impossible deadlines.  Time and again the team and the individuals achieved – so much so that they won global awards.  The leader rewarded them richly.  He said he would go to war with them if necessary.  They achieved even more.  Rare failure was regrettable, rigorously analysed to find the learning, but only seen to be culpable if it had happened without assistance being sought.

The leader moved one.  With his successor the team continues to succeed.  Some things have changed, much stays the same.  The pride in achievement is embedded.  Being the best they can be continues to take on new meaning.  Awards continue to be won.

Sounds like a fairy story?

It isn’t!  It’s true! 

My journey into new learning this year has led me to seek examples of success with social learning in the networked society in which we all now live. It was only when I suddenly realised what social learning is actually all about that I saw that it is nothing new – the current welter of activity to accommodate to technology enabled learning is simply an invitation to put some established ideas into a new and wonderfully enhanced environment. What a prospect for learning in 2011 and beyond!

So what were the ingredients?

·         A leader who lives helping people learn
·         An environment which enables initiative, and exploration
·         Superbly mapped processes with all the supporting tools
·         A learning emphasis built in to the process improvement cycle
·         A clear Community of Practice with well identified Subject Matter Experts
·         An effective communications network
·         Culture of mutual support and individual accountability
·         Continuous striving for something more – pride in achievement
·         Recognition and reward for success

And when did it happen?  Over the 10 years spanning the millennium!

There is nothing revolutionary.  The story shows social learning in action with some simple principles that transcend technology.

The trick now for those of us concerned with Working Smarter is to harness the tools we now have to reach for new horizons – places we have not yet dreamed about.

In striving we will have fun, discover ourselves and find fulfillment


  1. How true and it was great to be a part of the team !! I wish I could have recorded it with such passion and circumspection

  2. Robert - So you think you recognised somewhere you had been? It was a huge experience for all of you

  3. This is an encouraging post. Could you expand on "Superbly mapped processes with all the supporting tools."? Thank you.

  4. Hi Mary Elizabeth

    Thanks for the comment. The purpose of the blog was to highlight that social learning has been happening for ever - and the example is of a way in which it was enabled long before anyone had heard of FB, Twitter etc as collaborative tools. The use of a very rigourous mapping of processes using the Deming cycle and including meeans and procedures for capturing, evaluating and incorporating feedback and improvement suggestions undoubtedly empowered the people involved and allowed for confident innovation alongside a very free sharing of knowledge and experience.

    I can provide further detail about the mapping process if you wish - and may be able to put you in direct touch with the person who master-minded the work if that would be helpful.

    But the point of the blog is to say that while we now have wonderful new tools available to enhance it, socail learning is not new and there are many processes and techniques available to encourage collaboration towards performance improvement

  5. Once upon a time (all good stories start like this!) there was a really brilliant team who succeeded beyond their wildest imaginations. They did so because they simply set out “to be the best they could be” and believed that they could get there.
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