I think you have a good suggestion in terms of applying social media, though I'm not convinced it's always and everywhere necessary.
You say, for example, "when workers are sharing and discussing via 'closed' systems such as email and face-to-face conversations," information about thinks like lack of understanding or need for new skills "is less accessble."
That's true to some extent, but a person could also read that as saying social media is preferable to face-to-face conversation, which is just silly. (I realize you don't mean it that way, but I'm always leery of the manager in search of Magic Beans.)
Not every interaction between people needs to take place in the open -- as the mindless use of cellphones demonstrates. Not every individual responds well to public criticism, even if it's dressed as "constructive feedback."
I'm not saying never to use these tools. What I am saying is they are no more The Answer than any other tool-as-bandwagon.
Speaking for myself, I'd rather have root canal work without anesthesia than have all my on-the-job coaching occur through blogs, wikis, or (saints preserve us) tweets.
Perhaps before the "learning professionals" plunge in and provide additional support and job aids, they ought to deal directly with an individual to confirm that he or she does "need" these things.
Otherwise, you end up with management-imposed requirements that, for example, everyone in the organization has to have a blog. Next, you have to post at least four times a week. Next, you have to have two posts a month on My Personal Learning Reflections. (It's not all that far down the road to "What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?")
This mindset is what's made performance appraisal such a roaring success throughout the workplace.
I couldn't agree more with Dave that social media isn't the answer to everything. His comment got me thinking, though, about the whole issue of how to use social media to support learning.
To me, when you start mandating that people have to write two blog posts a week on specific topics, you are violating the very spirit of Web 2.0, which is built upon the idea of voluntary contributions to the network. Web 2.0 is about choice, it's about user-generated content built out of a passion for the topic, it's about the kinds of conversations that happen in pubs, not the mandatory appearance in front of your boss. It's this approach, as much as the tools themselves, that creates the value you get from using social media for learning.
I personally don't believe that Web 2.0 and command and control can truly exist together. It goes back to what Harold Jarche posted earlier this week on the new nature of the firm:
For enterprise 2.0 to work, it needs to embrace democracy in the workplace, something that rarely exists in industrial, command and control, organisations - which account for almost all of our businesses. Businesses run as monarchies or oligarchies but very few operate as democracies. . .
I think that enterprise 2.0 will not fulfill its potential unless its foundation is more than just web technologies or networked businesses. We need to integrate this democratic organising principle into our discussions on enterprise 2.0 and I am sure that many captains of industry will loudly disagree. Without an architectural organising principle, the enterprise 2.0 ship will not sail very far.
From a learning perspective, this means to me that we have to understand that to get the full benefit of Web 2.0 tools, we have to honor their nature. We have to not try to shoehorn old ways of doing things on top of tools that are fundamentally different in spirit. Mandating social media in the heavy-handed way that Dave fears is about as effective as requiring people to attend an organizational event and "network." There's a much more organic process at work here that we have to think about supporting--it's about creating an environment and options, not about mandating that people post on a blog three times a week.
But that's me. What do you think? Is it possible for social media to co-exist with a command and control work environment? If so, how does that work? And do we truly get the benefits of using Web 2.0 in that kind of situation?