How to Create a Mutant Learning Lab - Step 1

In our last blog, we talked about the differences between zombie and mutant learners. Hopefully, I convinced you that you’d rather be a mutant than a zombie. If I didn’t…well, you probably don’t want to keep reading…

Today, we’re going to talk about the first step toward building a Mutant Learning Lab—making the right connections.

Step 1. Connect: Join the Relevant Few 

Learning is exploding everywhere—you can find information on any topic no matter where you are. But knowing where to find what you are looking for is essential, not only for saving time but also for saving your sanity. 

For the connection step, you need to create your Professional Online Presence (POP), which constitutes the groups, social media, and networks you belong to and your online appearance. Your POP is your profile and holds the key to your online influence. You must first establish your POP in order to benefit from this new world of learning and to effectively build your Mutant Learning Lab. 

The mantra for this step is to “join the relevant few” because you can very easily get caught in an online web of irrelevance.

According to British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, there is a limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. While there is not a precise number, “Dunbar’s number” averages between 100 and 230. 

While we are not suggesting that you have only 150 social connections, we are saying that there is some merit to only joining the relevant few. This will ensure that your connections are manageable and strong and will enable you to join only those sites and be connected to only those specific groups that help you become competent in the topic you choose. 

It’s important to also keep in mind that Dunbar was studying social relationships in which people kept in touch through traditional means; social media has largely expanded our social networks by allowing us to keep in touch easily with people we rarely see or barely know. 

Within this new social stratosphere, clicking a “thumbs up” icon qualifies as an appropriate social interaction, and it is very possible to maintain stable social relationships with hundreds of people. However, for your Mutant Learning purposes, we suggest keeping your connections to only a relevant few, which we consider between 60 and 150.

3 Connection Strategies

  1. Socialize
  2. Specialize
  3. Collaborate


Social media can be an effective form of informal learning if you take the right approach.

For starters, you should join the Big 3 social media sites if you haven’t done so already. These are Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. While LinkedIn is not your typical social network, it does share many social media characteristics, making it the number one method of connecting to other like-minded business professionals. The power of this network is found in the groups that are founded and run by experts in a wide variety of industries.

As you start connecting to the Big 3, make sure you separate out the benign, banal, and boring things that are so prevalent in some social media circles. Don’t waste your social time on irrelevant people or topics. Avoid the self-centered individuals who erroneously think the rest of the world cares what they are eating. Dump these folks from your Mutant Learning Lab. If you find them entertaining or interesting you can always follow their “adventures in suburbia” in your personal entertainment lab.

Choose to follow, like, and join only relevant thought leaders, research sites, trade magazines, and knowledge brokers that can help you become competent in the topic or area that you have identified as your focus area.

  • Think of Twitter as a microblog—a place to get a summary of the best thoughts and relevant learning nuggets.
  • Utilize Twitter tools wisely. Twitter has a plethora of wonderful applications that many people do not take advantage of such as following relevant topics, thought leaders, and trending hashtags; facilitating or participating in tweetchat; organizing your learning fragments by lists; and responding.
  • Harness the power of links. A powerful component of Twitter comes in the links posted within the Tweets. Because Twitter posts are limited to 240 characters per tweet, use tools like and to keep these links short so that you leave room for your tweet message.
  • Smart Messaging. Keep your messages short. Leave enough room in your message for someone to retweet. Use humor and creativity. Think of your tweets as headlines.
  • Don’t plagiarize. Ensure that you always give attribution or credit to the source of the
  • information you are sharing. You can do this by just retweeting someone else’s tweet, or by adding “via @theirtwitterhandle.”

Keep your Mutant Learning Lab manageable by keeping the number of overall sources and connections between 60 and 150 and organizing them into functional groups. A simple way to accomplish this is to utilize the tools found within your respective social media platforms by creating appropriate lists or groups.


Connect to specific professional sites related to your topic of interest. If you are in Human Resources, for example, you may want to frequent the website of the Society of Human Resources Management (

You should also set up online memberships and RSS feeds to relevant trade magazines, research, or business sites. An example for an HR professional could be Talent Management’s site (, or for techies, provides excellent research reports.

Want to know what an RSS feed is and how to set one up? Practice Mutant Learning by going online right now and asking the online community. You will find answers in the form of tutorials, “how-to” lists, and videos within seconds.

  • Join only relevant and strategic groups (no more than 4 to start). There are nearly a million groups, so be very selective.
  • Search possible groups by the Groups Directory Page. Also, ask other peers interested in similar topics for which groups to join.
  • Monitor interesting discussions in your groups and contribute when possible. You can determine how often to receive email notifications from your groups (daily, weekly, etc.)



Collaboration is essential to Mutant Learning. You need to be connected to the right collaboration sites and networks in order to fully benefit from today’s wealth of information and knowledge. Collaboration could mean joining and contributing to a few relevant wikis, networking sites like LinkedIn, or internal communities like Yammer or Chatter.

The result of collaborating within the right groups and on the right websites can be extremely beneficial. There are even a few sites specifically dedicated to answering your questions using the combined wisdom of the community. Besides LinkedIn, other online answer sites include Quora, Yahoo! Answers, and

The next step in building a mutant learning lab is organizing the chaos! We’ll talk about that in the next blog.

Download the full eBook ​​Mutant Learning: How to Develop a Social Learning Lab here.