“So in fact, the topic you are working on, is lifelong learning!”
He is a younger guy, in his early thirties. A politician, consultant and social entrepreneur. Youssef Kobo. I had met him 4 months earlier thanks to a common connection on Facebook, Yasmine Alice.
Our conversation, on a cold Saturday afternoon in a coffee shop in the centre of Antwerp, made me understand that up until now, I had positioned social technologies in the mere context of the digital workplace - a hot topic, indeed. But, social technologies are also related to a much broader topic, a vital and even more influential one that affects politicians, policy and decision makers, unions, employers and employees. Social is also related to lifelong learning.
“So”, Youssef told me “explore it and elaborate on it!”.
The day after I left for a short trip to Switzerland. It was the end of October and when my husband and I entered the small village of Vals, we were surprised by 60 cm of freshly fallen snow. I guess the snow must have been a good source of inspiration because while we were driving back home, 5 days later, the following visual emerged in my head:
Let me explain the visual. And let’s start with the outer circle: Consume – Contribute – Create.
Think about LinkedIn for a moment. What kind of activities do you see in this online community? What do you see happening? How do you participate in these activities? And, how do they bring value?
People tend to think that they can only bring value by creating - writing blogs, recording podcasts or drawing visuals. But that’s not correct: the simple act of reading, consuming all these “units of knowledge” of creations, is also extremely valuable.
“If even just 1% of the community members are creating, 99% are learning.”
That’s what one of the co-authors of my book, Jan Vanoudendycke, once told me. Jan is Knowledge Management Director at Engie, a global energy provider. Jan is absolutely right. In online communities members create value in many different ways: making and publishing new materials is one way; consuming, reading and learning, is another one.
And what about the third C in the outer circle of the visual, contributing? We can contribute by reacting to other people’s posts or by sharing them. In each of these two cases, we’re adding an extra layer of information. This extra layer of information can take different forms, such as:
a summary of the original post;
an explanation on how the ideas of the post help you in your job;
a link to other blogs, videos and podcasts;
a clarification on why you do not agree;
an open question asking for help to clarify some elements;
a remark on how the ideas in the post link to an experience: “oh this reminds me of a conversation I had lately with person X”;
or a suggestion to a community member to connect them with the author of the post “this might be of interest for X who is working on …”.
I am a big fan of contributing since it’s all about adding sense, “translating” knowledge, going a step further. It’s about linking facts and ideas to what they mean to us, explaining how they relate to our work. I like to compare “contributing” with clay modelling: we model or mould the clay, the raw material, into a particular form. Contributing is like making art, indeed! 😊
Before I tell you how the 3C’s relate to lifelong learning, let me explain what lifelong learning is all about.
Lifelong learning is a kind of behaviour, and each behaviour is underpinned by a set of beliefs, each behaviour is shaped by a certain mindset. Which is this mindset when we talk about lifelong learning? I see at least 3 elements: curiosity and proactivity, a growth mindset and reflective mindset.
Curiosity and proactivity Lifelong learners don’t wait for their manager to organise a training. They are in the driver’s seat of their own development. They decide themselves from whom they want to learn and what topics they want to focus on. A growth mindset A beautiful idea, developed by Carole Dweck. People with a growth mindset don’t feel threatened by the successes of others and they don’t see intelligence as something static. Quite the contrary. “Challenges help me grow.”, “Efforts and learning are a path to mastery.” That’s how they think.
Reflective practice Lifelong learners choose not to be overwhelmed by the daily hustle bustle. They take the time to reflect, to pause, to analyse how they use their time and talents. Reflective practice is a consciously and consistently planned activity.
So, finally, how do the 3Cs relate to the beliefs that underpin lifelong learning?
Let’s start with the first C: Consuming.
Consuming is not about reading everything what passes us by. We choose ourselves deliberately whose messages are worth reading. We build up a healthy feed. In other words: consuming promotes curiosity and proactivity.
It also allows us to develop a growth mindset. Reading is a great way to learn.
Moving on to the second C: Contributing.
Contributing, this way of doing art online, is about constructing meaning together. It reinforces our belief that it’s OK not to know everything, and it’s OK to ask questions. It also encourages us to take the time to reflect.
So yes, contributing allows us to develop our growth mindset and encourages reflective practice.
And what about the third C: Creating.
The prerequisite of creating is that we take the time to reflect and that we are curious about what is happening during the day. Creating is never just about the bear facts, but translating them, relating them to our own reality.
So yes, creating encourages reflective practice and stimulates our curiosity.
In conclusion. The 3Cs allow people to develop curiosity, proactivity, a growth mindset and reflective proactivity. Better said, participating in online communities is a like a walking through a door, following a path towards lifelong learning.
So thank you Facebook, for having connected me to inspiring people.
Thank you Yasmine, for having connected me to Youssef.
Thank you Youssef, for triggering me to broaden the scope of my topic.
Long live lifelong learning!
Long live online communities!
Long live social!