Social Learning: Everyone Can Be a Teacher

Do you ever get frustrated by CAPTCHAs?

In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, CAPTCHAs are those ridiculous not-quite-real words you have to type into websites so they know you’re human. They’re often illegible and sometimes impossible to decipher. I almost never get them correct on my first…or second…or even third try. They’re a constant frustration of mine and I tend to tweet and blog about the worst ones I’ve seen. I’ve done this so many times that a website that tracks influence on topics, Klout, thinks I’m an expert on the subject. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I guess I am.

We are all experts in something. Either through jobs, hobbies, or particular interests, we all have gained significant knowledge in at least a few subject areas. And for every topic that someone is an expert on, there are numerous people who want to learn more about that subject. From taking photos to baking cakes to fixing bicycles, there are an unlimited number of skills that people want to learn. The question is, if everyone has expertise in certain areas and other people value that knowledge, then why aren’t more of us teachers?

Of course, most of us teach in one form or another. We advise our children, mentor coworkers, and explain things to friends. This occurs on a daily basis usually in a direct conversation between two people. There are also professional teachers. The seven million teachers in the US educate children and adults all the way from nursery schools to post-doctoral programs. But what about the space in between? What about teaching that’s more structured than informal conversations but less structured than school programs?

New online platforms have recently launched to help fill the gap. They aim to connect people who have knowledge with those who want to learn. One of these sites,, calls this “democratized learning”:

“We believe that everyone has something they want to learn and something they can teach to others. We are a community marketplace to learn anything from anyone.”

At Ogilvy, we’ve always understood the importance of teaching. Our founder, David Ogilvy, famously wrote a memo to the Board of Directors in 1978 calling our agency a “teaching hospital”:

“Great hospitals do two things: they look after patients, and they teach young doctors. Ogilvy & Mather does two things: we look after clients, and we teach young advertising people. Ogilvy & Mather is the teaching hospital of the advertising world.”

It’s great that we are focused on increasing the knowledge of our employees. But if we are truly the “teaching hospital of advertising,” why are we stopping at the borders of our agency? Why can’t we open up the knowledge we have to anyone who is interested in learning?

Well, now we are.

Ogilvy has partnered with Skillshare to offer a series of classes open to the public. The classes start March 21st and include topics such as User Experience Design, Influencer Outreach, and YouTube & Video Strategy. They will be taught by Ogilvy executives who advise some of the most well-known brands in these areas. The classes cost $25 and all of the proceeds go to PROJECT:2040, a non-profit that connects minority engineering students with Silicon Valley startups for summer internships.

If you want to learn about advertising from some of the leading experts in the industry, I’d encourage you to take a class. But don’t stop there. Think about a topic that you are an expert in and would like to teach to others. Then go on to Skillshare and set up your own class.

Everyone is an expert in something. Everyone can be a teacher.