Catherine hung up the phone, locked her computer screen,
and slid her chair away from her desk. She grabbed her
purse and headed down the hall to meet her friends for
lunch. She had just completed a two-hour live webinar, and
was excited about the information she had received and the
homework she would complete with two colleagues, one in
her office in Galway, Ireland, and another located outside
of London, England. They were all members of Cisco’s
Development Organization (CDO), and they were learning
about the latest social computing technologies. This was
the second of four two-hour webinars that Catherine and
her colleagues would participate in over the course of four
months. She loved the exchanges that always ensued as her
Western Europe colleagues shared their questions and ideas.
Cisco, the worldwide leader in networking software, hard-
ware, and services, has been using social media to create
customized learning solutions for their employees. As a large,
fast-moving global company with employees dispersed across
the globe, it is a challenge and a business imperative to
enable employees to continually refresh their skills. Social
computing technologies have played a key role in employee
development. Web 2.0 and collaboration are woven into the
fabric of Cisco’s learning and development culture, and Cisco
sees its use as a model of running a sustainable business.
Social media has been utilized in learning and develop-
ment at Cisco for four primary reasons. First, it is part of
the company’s corporate culture and critical to its strategy.
CEO John Chambers has encouraged the use of these new
technologies with a focus on collaborating and connecting
with customers, partners, employees, and communities. With
Web 1.0, Cisco claimed to be the first company to do support,
case management, and orders online. Web 2.0 is viewed as
a market transition, impacting the way businesses are run.
Cisco desires to be at the forefront of this transition and
is heavily investing in making it happen smoothly. Greg
Brower leads Cisco’s curriculum planning and deployment
in the Cisco Development Organization (CDO). His group
is responsible for enabling the learning and development of
approximately 40 percent of Cisco’s key talent. Among them
are the software and hardware design engineers. He explains,
‘‘We are there to partner with the business units to identify
high value opportunities, try it, shake it out, and use it to
effectively run the business.’’
Second, social media is cost effective. The smart use of
social media helps to cut expenses and reduce the opportu-
nity cost associated with travel for traditional instructor-led
training. Through social media, experts have access to more
affordable ways to design learning experiences.
Third, social media scales more effectively to meet a
global audience’s training needs. In the past, instructors flew
across the world for face-to-face training in small groups.
With social technologies, time zone boundaries are no longer
a barrier to sharing complex knowledge with huge groups
of distributed employees. Through CDO’s ‘‘Nerd Lunch’’
program, the company routinely uses telepresence technol-
ogy to enable the technical transfer of information from
Austin, Texas, to large audiences in San Jose, California,
and beyond.
Fourth, social media engages employees in sharing knowl-
edge and expertise. Says Greg Brower: ‘‘We believe that the
more engaged the employees are, the more satisfied and
productive they will be. For CDO, it’s about enabling engi-
neers to share the very thing that makes them come to
workknowledge and innovation. Engagement is a smart
thing to do, and Web 2.0 is a critical way to do it.’’ Brower’s
comments echo the support that social media has at Cisco,
far beyond its learning solutions.
The course that Cisco’s pursuing has resulted in a plethora
of creative design, development, and delivery techniques
using social media technology. Cisco’s CDO group incor-
porates Web 2.0 into their solutions, learning as much
as possible about social computing to ensure that it can
stay ahead of the competition. When traditional instructor-
led training failed to meet the organization’s requirements
for low-cost speed of deployment to a global audience,
CDO’s technology executives approached Brower’s Curricu-
lum Team, challenging it to nd a way to incorporate Web
2.0 technologies into its curriculum development process.
In partnership with the voice technology group, the cur-
riculum team came through with an exemplary approach.
A wiki was used to gather training requirements and create
a proposal for executives. The actual curriculum design was
completed through a wiki as well with contributions from
subject matter experts on discussion forums, video links, and
question-and-answer dialogues using WebEx virtual confer-
ences. In essence, the curriculum design process became a
structured conversation using Web 2.0 tools. In this man-
ner, the team was able to quickly and effectively share
project information, identify training requirements, design
an effective solution, and make their executive proposal.

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