The Importance of Learning Networks

Learning Networks 01

In the age of information overload, learning networks are an essential way to stay abreast of emerging knowledge and trends.

Throughout my career I have always found myself in roles that require in-depth knowledge of emerging trends and topics. Like many management consultants, I’ve spent days combing through documents, piecing together a story to inform a client meeting, proposal or solution outline. The challenge of finding valuable sources of information, categorizing them, filtering the output from each and curating the useful tidbits is one every professional faces. For individuals that like to read, such a challenge may seem like fun, but even my bookworm friends find staying on top of the fire hose of information available today overwhelming.

For continuously learning professionals, leaning activity can be broken down into two primary focus areas:

  1. Maintenance: Staying on top of what is emerging about already familiar topics
  2. Expanding scope: New topics I need to research because they relate to core expertise or a project outside core expertise.

An earlier process, called clipping, pieced together clips from magazine articles, research reports, e-mails, and other sources to form complete thoughts on relevant information. It was a messy process that was eventually replaced when social bookmarking tools emerged online. In my post last week, one of my tips was to manage your networks and information like a bookshelf. However, excess bookmarks and insufficient tagging and categorization meant that bookmarks were often forgotten and unused.

What finally eclipsed paper files and online bookmarks in terms of value and utility was learning networks. Learning networks are collections of people who interact with and follow each other online with the express purpose of learning from them. Keeping a relevant learning network can be simply achieved through following and interacting with new individuals, and removing those who no longer share information relevant to professional development.

Learning networks empower continuous learners in ways no filing system can, for example:

  • The Network Effect enables a member of a collective to discover a much broader body of information than any one professional could because all other members of the network contribute.
  • It provides a real-time support network that can act as guidance when members hit a roadblock
  • It can facilitate introduction with original content producers/authors/experts when more information is needed
  • It can serve as a test audience for each member’s created content.

Don't forget to check out Master's first post, Master Tips for Developing a Learning Network .

To learn more from Master Burnett, check out his webcast from July 9th, 2013 on Talent Networks vs Talent Communities

Master Burnett is the Director of Strategy at BraveNewTalent