In the age of information overload, learning networks are an essential way to stay abreast of emerging knowledge and trends. Take a look at Master Burnett's top 6 tips for developing a community based learning network.
1. Follow people not sources
Information sources can be great one day and completely useless the next. Quality output from sources can fluctuate, however, people are relatively consistent in the quality and scope of content they contribute.
2. Formalize when possible
Formal networks are far more beneficial for more scientifically backed or complex subjects. In formal networks, where all of the participants have been introduced to one another, it can be helpful to combine insights and highlight new source discoveries to determine if certain sources are worth monitoring.
3. Keep the network diverse
Sharing content and learning with like-minded professionals makes for polite conversations, but it does little to encourage differing opinions or challenge what is generally accepted as true. Adding diversity to your network helps ensure that you see the body of knowledge around a topic from a more holistic perspective.
4. Meet periodically in person
It can be tempting to conduct all learning activities online, but meeting in-person allows for better understanding of your peers' approaches to learning. Little tidbits that emerge from casual conversation over a beer can open up an entirely new perspective on a topic you have been discussing online for years.
5. Use a tool that lets you organize by topic
When needing information, the topic is often the first thought, with individual informers as the second. While it’s easy to recall the major areas of expertise of people in a network, it’s harder to recall all of the topics they are knowledgeable on. While I am not a huge twitter user, this is what I use twitter lists and social analytics services like Klout for. Here at BraveNewTalent, Topics are a foundation of how we organize content and drive discovery for individuals and organizations.
6. Manage your networks like a bookshelf
Even using a network to filter the fire hose of all that is available can still produce an overwhelming body of content. Treat learning networks like an old bookshelf that can only hold up so much before it collapses. Periodically pruning topics and individuals from networks allows enough consumption to remain confident with a topic, but not so much as to feel overwhelmed.
It feels kind of cliché to say that there has never been a better time to manage your own learning experience, but the truth is that new tools come online every day that make informal learning opportunities infinitely more valuable than formal learning paths. When you don’t take charge of your own learning, you let someone else manage your experience which ultimately means you let someone else limit the scope of your professional value in the world.
Master Burnett is the Director of Strategy at BraveNewTalent