Google Plus has been out widely for a week, and already, there are numerous articles speculating on its usefulness for education and training.
We at Q2 are skeptical.
Don’t get me wrong – we’re big Google aficionados here. We actually PAY the good people at Google for hosting our staff email accounts and Google Apps. But in a space overflowing with tools, we’re picky about using the right tool for the right job, and we don’t really see this new one as offering what’s needed to facilitate organizational learning.
The big leap forward Google Plus represents is greater control for the individual over who she is sharing with than is available on Facebook. Which is great, and arguably makes it a better tool in one’s personal learning environment than Facebook ever could be. I say this as an individual who does frequently learn about interesting things via my Facebook friends, and is already appreciative of the ability Google Plus offers to tune who I’m paying attention to, and who I’m broadcasting to, a lot more precisely than Facebook and Twitter permit.
It’s just that if you’re in the business of facilitating learning initiatives within the organization, as we are, then you are rather dependent on the ability to form groups at the organizational level. For formal learning, we want to be able to organize people into groups with different roles — into coaches and learners and administrators. And for informal learning, the existence of silos in an organization means that people frequently don’t know people who we’d like them to become acquainted with. All that crossing silos stuff we want to accomplish means creating groups with representatives from the silos we are trying to integrate, and actively facilitating conversations among the members of that group.
So we see Google Plus as a promising tool in the individual’s kit, but for organizational initiatives, we’re sticking to tools which give our customers the power to form and reform groups in their org.