Founder Skill Pill M-Learning
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How can we increase collaboration using mobile?

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12th Apr 2013
Founder Skill Pill M-Learning
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Gerry Griffin of Skill Pill M-Learning looks at how to facilitate a collaborative learning environment using mobile devices.

Collaborative, or peer-to-peer, learning provides wide scope for organisations to create value through sharing employee knowledge. While collaborative learning is current, it is not a fad. The time has come to join the movement.

Collaborative versus formal learning

When discussing collaborative learning versus traditional, formal learning, we first need to look at the differences in how knowledge is shared throughout the organisation. On the one hand, formal ways of communicating tend to be structured and hierarchical – HR dispenses knowledge directly to individuals or learning groups.

By comparison, informal sharing of information sprawls out in a much more riotous pattern – largely due to collaborative engagements making use of many more sources than simply HR. Insights and ideas accumulate within groups and via individual employees through sharing. Over time, this accrued knowledge spreads across the organisation, constantly developing learning channels.

Looking at both ways of communicating, collaborative engagements provide much greater scope to evolve learning within a company. It would appear organisations have indeed started to take note of informal learning’s potential.

"Collaboration-based programmes are informal and participative in nature. So, it’s logical to use a device which reflects these core traits."

Formal knowledge sharing was popular during the 80s and 90s. Today though many organisations are beginning to dabble – or indeed jump – into much more fluid ways of generating dialogue. Take Jive for example – a social business platform which seeks to get employees, business partners and customers to interact to create better business results. 

Click here for a visualisation which captures the frenetic movement of a single image being shared between hundreds of thousands of individuals on Facebook. While the example relates to social media, it effectively illustrates the vast potential informal, collaborative environments offer.

Why mobile makes sense

A huge part of introducing any new process to the workplace is getting the right tools for the job. Collaboration-based programmes are informal and participative in nature. So, it’s logical to use a device which reflects these core traits.

So why is the mobile ‘fit-for-purpose’? Well, everybody has a device over which they feel very possessive. I have also seen that the best tone of voice for use on mobile is casual and engaging. It therefore aligns perfectly to the ideology behind these types of sharing environments.

In terms of utility, peer-to-peer sharing across the mobile channel works more effectively than non-personal devices. This comes down to a simple fact. As it's personal, people are more likely to make use of it.

It’s also important to remember the flow of ideas across colleagues tends to be incidental. To minimise loss of content, tools need to be easy to access. They need to be delivered via a medium employees have constant access to – the mobile. On average we view our mobiles every 6 and a half minutes – that’s 150 times per day.

How to make collaboration work

While social networks both at consumer and corporate level are relatively advanced, transactions across peer-to-peer are still very much a work in progress. So, why, if we have the technology and environment to promote collaboration, are we so behind?

The barriers which exist currently are purely cultural, not technological. Some may be sceptical over its value-creating ability, or perhaps the authenticity of information. It’s vital to address these concerns at all levels rather than going full steam ahead with a new programme. Without everyone on board, collaboration will never get off the ground.

Key to introducing collaborative environments is assigning a relevant reward scheme. Formal learning tends to use certification and KPIs to benchmark and reward employees. Sharing environments by comparison work better where merits and reward are ascribed to an individual based on the richness, variety and level of collaboration.

Collaborative environments can fit into any workplace – it’s more a question of doing it right.

Gerry Griffin is director of Skill Pill M-Learning, former director of the London Business School and author of six business books. A frequent TV commentator on web developments, Gerry has lectured in the U.S., Europe, Asia, and Africa. Gerry founded Skill Pill in 2006, and is passionate about the impact m-learning can have in supporting executives in the workplace

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