Working with Social Proof as aGuide to PracticeJohn David SmithLearning Alliances
Some terms to frame this session• “Working with”– Our work is collaborative, creative and evolving• “A Guide”– Our use of today’s discussion involvesinterpretation, re-expression, & appropriation• “Practice”– We participate in, design or facilitate learning incommunities, classes or other events• We are evidence and detectives at once
Defining Social Proof• A means we use to determine what is correctis to find out what other think is correct.– The principle applies especially to the way wedecide what constitutes correct behavior.– We view a behavior as more correct to a givensituation to the degree that we see othersperforming it.—Cialdini (1984, 2007) p. 116In this conversation we should focus both on whatpeople “know” and on their “learning behaviors.”
Influence as every-day learning• Influence of celebrity role models• Reducing phobias in children• “Pluralistic ignorance” – bystander inaction• Strongest when those we observe are most“like us”• Group-think in communities, teams, society– Beneficial or negative (Lave & Wenger, etc.)– Unconscious learning about learning (Lave, 2011)
Increasing Social Proof on The ‘Net• Increased connectivity– People are “always on, always available”• New modes of engagement– Easy publication and re-appropriation• Changing geographies of community & identity– Customization, boundaries evolve & dissolve• A socially active medium– “We shape our buildings, and afterwards, ourbuildings shape us.”Wenger, White & Smith 2009, p 174
Social Proof as a learning strategy• In general: Who to follow, shadow, copy?• Strategy choices– Ethnographers: observing meaning-making– Entrepreneurs: seeking to meet people’s needs– For learning, we oscillate between strategies• Jerry Michalski (http://www.sociate.com)– Follows people he’s identified as “curmudgeons”– Jerry proves that his strategy is effective
Identify, Follow the Contrarians(to find new views, experience, & networks)http://bit.ly/15bu2CVWhere do contrarians fit in our communities?
Social proof & communities of practiceWhen social proof is dense and ismagnified by ongoinginteractions, shaping the beliefsand behavior of a group ofpeople, we have a community ofpractice.
Enabling social proof in community• A recent client’s goals were very lofty:– Establishing an international community ofpractice to help rebalance the relationshipbetween field-staff relationship & HQstaff, improve use of technology, and become “alearning organization”• Community leader doing all the right things:– Tools: email lists, websites, docs, recordings– Engagement: Face-to-faceevents, webinars, discussions, back-channelexchanges– Enlistment: personal network, staff support, etc.
Coaching story, continued• Normal obstacles: time, resources, continuity• BUT: very slow growth & limited uptake– Not getting much help from others– Stuck in “HQ knows all—does all for us” paradigm• Social proof as a blind spot?– Obstacle to change…. ?– Isolation: of activities and of tools from each other– Coaching conversations focused on connectingdots (activities & tools)
Social proof & community structure“Core” suggests “proof“ has happened.Where / how do “core interactions” happen?Is the core visible? Does it benefit the edge?“Edge” suggests “proof” is happening.Is the periphery visible to the core?Are newcomer views & actions visible?What access to the core do they have?There are many more questions to be asked…
Social proof & social learning activityLooking over someone’s shoulder.Conversation.Share notes to extend participation.Naming a shared experience.Recording and note-taking.Routinizing sharing practice.Note: Cycle vs. dimension perspectives
Tools for access to thought & behaviorGoogle Docs TwitterSkype Adobe ConnectRemember: Cycle vs. dimension perspectives
We can’t escape social proofDesignFacilitation
When is “proof” really proof?(A: As we make sense of people’s actions)• Where do we find sociability & negotiability?• Both participation & reification– As dimensions– As a cycle• Coherence between kinds of proof:– Individual (learning)– Community (innovation)• Weaving a much larger (global?) fabric
Persistent questions for us all• When or what are “we” or “they” learning?• Social proof:– Which actions of which people are good models?– What knowledge of which people is helpful?• Ourselves as actors:– Linking or separating conversations or communities– Linking or separating channels (technologies)– Are we making sense or making noise?