Social Social media is quickly becoming de rigueur in almost every corner of corporate America — leadership, marketing, communications, staffing, HR, technology. To varying degrees, they've all embraced social media, and with good reason: The social movement is fundamentally changing the ways we communicate and collaborate.

Lagging a step or three behind, though, is education.

Whether we're talking about college classrooms or CPE programs, most people think of education as a series of one-time, live events. The social aspect of education rarely comes to mind, and that's sad because, as Tony Bingham says, most education is inherently social, anyway.

“There's no doubt we have always learned from each other,” said Bingham, co-author of “The New Social Learning: A Guide to Transforming Organizations Through Social Media” and CEO of the American Society for Training and Development. “This isn't some new revolutionary concept in learning. What we have now are the tools to accelerate and simplify and document the ways we learn from one another.”

I think the problem is that word — “education.” It conjures images of classrooms and blackboards, textbooks and No. 2 pencils. “Learning” is so much more accurate. We wait for others to educate us, but we can learn from anything, and anyone, in any situation. Social media are merely tools that enhance our ability to learn.

“Problems are becoming more complex, and typically one person can't solve them efficiently and effectively. You want to leverage the knowledge of many people to do that,” Bingham says. “As problems become more complex, you now have the tools that allow groups of people to solve problems. You're not dealing with borders or time constraints. It has really opened up the way problem-solving — and, thus, organizational success — can happen in the future.”

The CPA profession is a perfect example of that concept, Bingham says. One of the things that differentiates CPAs is their ability to constantly solve problems. Today, new problems are surfacing with unprecedented speed and regularity.

“Going to your peers is a very effective way to learn,” says Bingham. “It's a way to stay focused on being the best you can be by leveraging the best people who are available to solve specific problems. It engages people with each other and gives them resources from which to learn that they might not have had in the past.”

In short: Education is no longer the exclusive domain of classrooms and professors. Thanks to social media, it can happen anywhere, at anytime, from anyone.

And it's only going to grow.

“By 2014, potentially half the workforce will be millennials,” Bingham says. “We all know how comfortable they are with social technologies. They are bringing it into the workplace with them. They will be demanding that organizations adopt their approach to learning, and if those organizations don't, they will not be able to attract those workers. Even if they are fortunate enough to attract those workers, they will not be able to retain them and engage them. We're just seeing the beginning of (social learning's) potential impact.”

You can hear Bingham's thoughts in their entirety by listening to this CPA Spotlight podcast.

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How are you incorporating social media into your training programs? Let us know, then check out these related resources:

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