Google


Google recently announced that it is “launching an initial set of Google+ features designed specifically for businesses.”  If you don’t know, Google+ is a social networking platform similar to Facebook.  The plan is to make Google+ available to companies that are already using Google Apps.  This move has great implications from a performance improvement perspective.  Let me tell you why.

Informal learning has been a hot topic in learning circles for several years.  The struggle has always been to capture the dynamic of the water cooler without losing its value.  By adding social networking features to Google Apps an organization can bring the water cooler to everyone’s work space.  I will attempt to provide some examples of how this can work.

An analyst becomes aware of a shipping problem at the warehouse.  He contacts the supervisor to get a status report on the problem.  Using the Hangouts On Air feature, the two discuss the problem and work out a resolution via video chat.

The entire process can take minutes to complete.  The analyst and warehouse supervisor do not need schedule a meeting or even be in the same location.  The conversation can be recorded and shared for everyone in the organization to access or it can be shared with specific groups (called Circles in Google+).   When the video is posted viewers can comment and ask questions just like they comment on a post in Facebook.

The Circles feature is another great way to encourage and facilitate collaboration.

A circle enables you to decide who has access to information.  If a work group is created to develop a new sales strategy they can collaborate in a circle.  Throughout the process they can share selected information with other circles to solicit feedback or provide updates.  They can add members as the needs of the project dictate.  When the project is complete they can share their final report with other circles.

These are just two examples of how Google+ can improve an organization’s performance.  The company I work for uses Google Apps.  We have stretched the docs and sites features to improve collaboration within the corporate office and with our remote locations.  I think the social aspect of Google+ would take the work we have done already to an entirely new level.

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According to recent research, “human memory is reorganizing where it goes for information, adapting to new computing technologies rather than relying purely on rote memory. We’re outsourcing “search” from our brains to our computers.”

Putting Google in the headline captures people’s attention but I believe we should consider the effect of social media too.  Our daily milieu includes RSS news feeds, Facebook updates, tweets, text messages, and blog posts.  How many of us use those tools to get information?  I do.

What are the implications for learning?  Ubiquitous access to information has expanded the phenomenon of informal learning.  Wikipedia describes informal learning as, “semi-structured and occur[ing] in a variety of places, such as learning at home, work, and through daily interactions and shared relationships among members of society.”  This is not new.  Wisdom has always been passed from generation to generation.  Everyone has taught and learned from our peers.

But there is a difference between simply consuming information and learning.  Surfing the web and staying informed via social media requires very little cognitive effort.  In Bloom’s taxonomy the lowest level of cognition is knowledge or remembering.  If the research cited above is accurate, the internet is causing us to remember less, in other words rely less on our memory.  Does this mean that we forget information as quickly as we take it in?  Probably not.  Years of cognitive research is clear that the brain stores the information we consume.  So how can we make use of this information?

One way is to blog.  Taking time to reflect on the substance of an article, news item, or other information moves your cognitive activity from knowledge to comprehension.  One step may not seem like a big deal but it the difference between being a consumer of information and actively engaging in learning.  I believe that is one of the under-appreciated aspects of blogging.  The process of writing this post not only has the potential of  influencing others (hopefully for the better) but it also enables me to integrate the substance of the article into my knowledge base.

The great thing is its free.  It didn’t require a budget, a meeting space or a team of developers.  All that is required is an engaged mind that does not simply consume information but is intentional in understanding what it is taking in.

I have no idea if this book is worth reading but the general principles in this four minute video are thought provoking.
If you like the video, get the book.  If you like the book blog about it so everyone can gain from your insights too.