I meet increasing numbers of organisations who are implementing, or sponsoring, their own Social Communities of Practice, adopting co-creative approaches to learning, and crowd sourcing innovative ideas. The intent is often great: creating spaces for engagement, spaces for learning, opportunities to add value. But there is a trap that we can easily fall into, a trap that causes us to mistakenly believe that the new spaces operate within the old rules. They don’t.
Social Communities are more about partnership than ownership, consensus rather than control.
There is a great deal of extra value, held within our own communities, that we can gain access to: value that lies beyond ‘transaction’, and will be willingly invested under the right conditions. But we should focus more on those ‘conditions’, than on the prize itself. For example, i was talking to a project sponsor last week who said ‘we would love it if they told this story’, when referencing the messaging that they wanted a community to share. Well, if they are lucky, maybe the community will share that story, but the truly Socially Dynamic Organisation is one that will hear the alternative story, and be willing to listen to it.
Within known spaces, with known rules, and known consequences, it’s easy to hear the stories that we want to hear. But in unknown spaces, with divergent communities, we are more likely to hear stories of evolution, revolution, or dissent, but these stories are not without value. We have not created these differences, but rather are more easily able to engage in spaces where we can hear them. And once we hear them, our response should be to learn from them, not try to silence them.
In these early stages of the Social Age, as we seek to explore, to prototype new models of Organisational Design and operation, we should perhaps be focussed less on the grand prizes, and more on the everyday behaviours. I suspect that the most important place to look is to the individual skills, and competencies, of every member of the community. Build a distributed capability to engage, and then create the quiet space for people to engage within. Less a focus on technology and system, more on engagement and reflection.
For me, these are the skills of the Social Leader: to invest in their community, to build high levels of Social Capital in themselves, and in their teams, and to dedicate their effort to supporting, and nurturing, their communities. That may be less enticing than a big story, less pleasing than positive reinforcement of those things that we already believe, but ultimately, it will make our organisations more diverse, and hence stronger.