Magazine article Talent Development

Building Your Own PLN: Seeking New Insights and Ideas? Expand Your Personal Learning Network

Magazine article Talent Development

Building Your Own PLN: Seeking New Insights and Ideas? Expand Your Personal Learning Network

Article excerpt

Imagine yourself in the following situation: You're hard at work revising an old project. You've rewritten your content over and over, but every version seems the same. Technically you've created new content, but it's still sending the same old messages in a slightly different way. You need something to shake up your work and help you think differently. But how do you do that?

Although the exact details vary, I'm sure we've all found ourselves in situations like that before. Our ideas feel like they're stagnating, and we need something to refresh our thinking. There are many tricks we can try to keep our minds fresh, such as attending conferences, reading books and articles, or listening to podcasts. But few are as effective (or as cheap) as a great personal learning network (PLN).

A PLN is simply an informal group of people who you learn things from on a regular basis. And if you're doing it right, they learn things from you too.

The relationships that form your PLN often aren't the teacher-student structure you remember from school. They're more casual than that. Think of the co-worker who consistently knows how to solve your PowerPoint problems, the blogger who responds to your comments on her articles, or the Facebook acquaintance who always posts the best tips on planning an event.

Clearly you already have the beginnings of your own PLN, but it's worth the effort to grow and curate it even further--particularly if you're looking for new voices to shake up your current ideas. In our field of work, a strong PLN is both vital for helping create better learning and, due to the sharing nature of most learning professionals, surprisingly easy to accomplish.

Here are a few useful tips for building your learning and development (L&D) PLN.

Know that all PLNs are different

It may be tempting to talk to someone with a successful PLN and then simply connect to all the same people. However, what works for one person is unlikely to work as effectively for someone else.

We all have different interests, focuses, and needs, and your PLN can only be fruitful if it reflects you.

Ask and listen

Have you ever had a conversation during which you learned a friend or family member has a surprising skill or experience? Or perhaps while casually conversing with a co-worker you discovered that he has the answer to a problem you've been struggling with lately.

The people around you have a wealth of information, but often this expertise isn't immediately obvious. You can build your PLN easily by just taking the time to chat regularly with the people in your life. Ask about their experiences and what they're interested in, and then really listen to what they have to say. You'll be surprised by what you learn.

Remember, too, to talk about your own work and the things you enjoy doing. These conversations are important because they're another way to trigger insights from others. They also help people see whether your hidden talents fit into their PLNs.

Leverage technology

Technology, in particular social media, helps you discover people you would have never met otherwise, and to stay in touch with people with whom you would have otherwise fallen out of touch. Take advantage of technology to broaden and strengthen your PLN.

Need some ideas to get started? Use email to keep in touch with people you meet at conferences. Read blogs and online magazines to discover new thinkers in our industry. Participate in online chats and message boards to connect with people across the globe. …

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