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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Development and Learning in Organizations: An International Journal, Volume 28, Issue 6
Anne Gimson is based at Bateson House, Strategic Developments International Ltd, Abergavenny, UK. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
After a relatively quiet incubation period, Social Media burst into the world approximately 12 years ago like a screaming, not-to-be-ignored and needing-to-be-nurtured baby. As a “troublesome toddler,” it irritated and tested the patience of those who wanted to control it and teach it some manners. In 2015, it is still providing moments of exasperation and wonder in equal measure – not least that it just does not stop changing. What works one day might be an unmitigated disaster the next – and what is to come? The teens!
So, are you someone who is still pretending that this soon-to-be hormonal teenager does not exist, despite the fact it is living with you and influencing the world around you on a minute-by-minute basis? Or, are you already fully engaging with it, being amazed at what it can achieve, as well as occasionally appalled at the trouble it can cause? Wherever you sit on that engagement continuum, this issue of Development and Learning in Organizations: An International Journal will help you consider how, as a leader or learning and development (L&D) professional, you can build and improve your partnership with it and harness its energy and potential in a positive way.
It is perhaps something of a paradox that we are exploring Social Media through what some might see as a more conventional form of communication. However, for those of us who can remember life without mobiles, laptops and ipads; blogs, vlogs and twitter; youtube, snapchat and pinterest, this is perhaps a more easeful way of learning how we might dip our toes in the water or do we just need to jump straight in? I am sure even our younger leaders and readers from Generations X and Y, for whom Social Media is just a part of “how we do things” might find golden nuggets of wisdom among these online or hard-copy journal pages, as we are privileged to have contributions from some of the key Social Media “movers and shakers.”
From the USA, Marcia Conner, and Nigel Paine from the UK, get us off to a rousing start in the first two articles, with a clarion call for all of us to shake off any remaining reticence about this unruly child and get involved. Nigel weaves a wonderful illustration of Social Media in action with some great practical insights into the actions L&D should be taking. He challenges us to let go of obsolete models of learning and get involved or get left behind. Marcia reminds us that more people around the world have access to Social Media than do running water and offers succinct questions into how this capacity might transform organizations and, indeed, the world in which we live.
In our third article, writer of the “Leadership Principles” blog (with 237,000 followers), Gordon Tredgold, explores how leaders need to connect with Social Media not only at an organizational level but also at a personal level; to demonstrate their authenticity, to connect as a whole person and to potentially increase their influence with their followers. As he rightly says, “the genie is already out of the bottle”!
A definition from the Oxford Dictionary – “Relating to the identification of long-term overall aims and interests and the means of achieving them” – might lead us to view business strategy as something of a current-day misnomer. In a turbulent, fast-moving world, can you be “strategic” about anything? Canada’s Harold Schroeder shows, in our fourth article, how organizations need to take, what he calls, an “Art and Science” approach, where there is not just support for staff to learn how to handle and use Social Media, but also permission to engage with their customers. This continual dialogue then becomes a key part of emergent strategies for growth and competitiveness.
If we find Social Media a recalcitrant teenager, then Big Data probably looks like all-out anarchy. Eddie Short informs us that by 2020, there will be 20 billion connected devices around the world, a serious level of information overload unless, as leaders and L&D professionals, we ensure the development of a culture that integrates logic and intuition and allows for multiple perspectives and failure. His insight into the critical importance of a radical shift in how we educate (not school!) our young people is also well made.
Helena Moore is someone who should be an inspiration to us all. Not only does she share her real-life journey into Social Media made at Bromford Housing in the UK, she sets out her pragmatic and experience-based advice on the kinds of changes you might expect and how to deal with them. For instance, the impact you might see on organizational culture and leadership development. In her words “[…] the biggest challenge in L&D for some time.”
Our two review articles look at specific, practical applications of Social Media. First, in “Like us on Facebook: the role of online social media in language learning “we read about an interesting case study where the levels of communication, participation and motivation to learn English on an academic program were increased with the integration of a social networking site as part of the course structure. Second, in “How to increase employee engagement: the impact of social media and organizational culture,” we hear of the positive use of Social Media in recruitment methods in one organization and the low impact on employee engagement in another business, where managers chose to control the Social Media agenda and discourage debate.
So, as we live through the next few years of our “Social Media teenager’s” life, I hope these pearls of wisdom from a few “expert guardians” might ease our journeys and help us to strengthen (or even begin) a productive and enjoyable relationship. As a parent of any young person stressing out about revision might say “It’s never too late to start – just do 10 minutes and see how it goes.”