In last week’s post, Collaborative Learning: Moving beyond organizational boundaries - Part 1, I explored the extent to which companies remain trapped in silos when it comes to learning, and some of the opportunities they’re missing as a result. I also shared some ideas on how organizations can start to shape the flow of knowledge across their ecosystems to thrive.
Collaborative learning across borders
Not all learning is created equal. And the stakes are even higher when it comes to learning initiatives that reach audiences outside of the firm. At Nomadic, we specialize in social learning. Our experience tells us that carefully structured and designed collaborative learning experiences are the best way to learn both within and outside of organizational boundaries.
We believe that any learning outside the firm’s boundaries should embrace the following four principles:
1. Differentiated experiences
Brands struggle to offer compelling and differentiated customer experiences with their products and services. Learning experiences offered by brands must be equally compelling and differentiated. Especially for top-of-funnel audiences, they should be lightly-branded but should also embody a brand’s unique views on topics that they have the expertise and brand permission to present. For existing customers further along in their journeys, learning environments can help empower them to become more effective advocates for brands.
2. Genuine collaboration
Brands should think of social learning less as an opportunity to deliver messages and more as an opportunity to shape ongoing conversations between engaged audiences of prospects, customers, influencers and employees. A dynamic learning community is well-curated and is continuously populated by newly released content. It goes without saying that the content must be interesting, beautiful, multimedia, and unique. Moreover, brands should be on the lookout for learner-generated use cases and insights that can be reincorporated into later iterations of the learning experience.
All of this learning is an empty exercise without meaningful data collection and analysis. Brands should, obviously, be tracking things like engagement but they should also be looking at learner comments for new product ideas, new customer needs, new insights about product-market fit, and new market challenges. As with any data-driven undertaking, developing processes to make the data and insights actionable is paramount. Solid processes will create a feedback loop that can enhance the learning environment, and even further amplify the brand’s position.
An organization’s CLO and the learning function are experts at driving internal learner engagement around brand values and firm capabilities. The CMO and the communications function (as well as the sales function) are experts are driving external engagement around a brand’s message. There’s a unique opportunity for the learning function to provide real business value by collaborating with marketers on learning initiatives. They can transform the best internal learning content into externally-oriented learning experiences that help drive sales and brand advocacy.
Just like Saxenian’s Silicon Valley winners from an earlier wave of mass disruption, the companies that successfully negotiate the current wave will become adept at shaping flows of knowledge across organizational boundaries. And this time, the smartest among them will harness learning to help achieve marketing and brand-advocacy goals.
Though the potential is immense, such initiatives are still in early stages. Some brands—in particular B2B technology companies—are actively experimenting with this approach. They understand the potential, and the risk of being left behind. But as with all marketing and learning programs, there is no one-size-fits-all solution waiting to be uncovered. Each brand needs to embrace the challenge in ways that stay true to their identity and values; start small, gather data, evolve and grow.
We suggest you select products and services that have high potential but whose value and relevant use cases are difficult to explain with traditional marketing. Then create meaningful learning experiences directly related to the underlying customer challenges addressed by those products and services. And remember Saxenian’s lesson: the organizations that embrace learning in innovative ways tend to win. Your competitors are not standing still.
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