Viral Learning – A Future For Getting Ideas Across?

By | April 1, 2010

Why do some ideas stick and others fall by the way-side?

E-learning has been a natural progression for training provision. Leading on from classroom sessions to distance learning, from one-to-one coaching to self-help manuals, the next step was to make learning available electronically either online or offline.

E-learning has had mixed results. Where it has been employed as part of a blended learning programme alongside other more practical and interactive methods – it works well. Also where the subject matter and the style of the individual’s learning preferences suit – it does a good job. But it’s not a perfect solution.

What of the future? What about the next generation of learners used to mixing up learning channels on the internet (Google and Wikipedia for starters) and sharing ideas with their peers via social networking sites (Facebook, Twitter, Blogger etc) before they even consider picking up a book?

Look at the success of viral marketing methods. Look what happened to the Christmas No.1 song in the UK this year – viral promotion at its most effective? Even Simon Cowell thought so.
What if organisations could harness some of this methodology to help spread best practice ideas throughout their work-force? What if there was a way of utilising the organisation’s intranet to facilitate a sort of cross between Facebook and Suggestions-box? Maybe it could be called Suggestbook or Yourview.com? If it were made open and accessible to all employees (even remotely) suggestions could be posted, tried, commented on, and even rated. Employers could even set up incentive schemes for the most highly rated ideas. Maybe financial rewards for the ideas that prove to make a significant commercial impact – who knows?

There’s (at least) two elements that need to be considered:

  1. For ideas to really penetrate they need certain characteristics better explained in ‘Made to Stick’ by Dan and Chip Heath – it’s well worth the read. Successful ideas need to have certain qualities, including their ability to ‘replicate’, how they break down into ‘digital chunks’ that can be passed on with only small adaptations or modification without losing the key message.
  2. For ideas to spread the environment needs to be fertile, and without wishing to stretch the ‘viral’ metaphor too far, ‘The Meme Machine’ by Susan Blackmore has an interesting take on Universal Darwinism for how ideas get transferred. For successful viral transmission sometimes all that is required is the mechanism to be set up, the right conditions to be fostered and finally, the removal of inhibitors!

What are your thoughts on Viral Learning? Get in touch and let us know.

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