Nurturing diversity of thought within communities is an art

Nurturing diversity of thought within communities is an art.  The working title for this blog post occurred to me after reading the article and comments from “Firms Hail New Chiefs (of Diversity)

If you are reading this article, it’s likely because you have interest in the subject of diversity, right?  Ask yourself this question, do you know where your employee or consumer resource groups are today? What topics are being discussed?  What are the key patterns?  Who is discussing with whom about what?  They are a great source of thought and inspiration, so why not engage them?  It’s highly likely you have either been a member or are involved with either formal or informal E2E, B2B or B2C communities online and/or  groups and teams that meet in person, right?  Now think about your diversity of people (membership) and thoughts or outcomes.  Do you seek change or are you wondering how to get more diverse

Just because you now have a social community channel, it doesn’t mean your community is diverse.  Nurturing diversity of thought within communities is an art.  It requires a team of  community weavers with valor, flexibility, inspirational leadership and courage.  These individuals link the unlinkable which isn’t something picked up in a certification class. It’s like an fine aged cheese, it requires an artisan and maturity.  Some of the best weavers that I’ve had the honor to work with build trust, foster diversity, invite dissention and are comfortable with the uncomfortable.  Many of these weavers have the competencies, characteristics or learning plans to:

  1. Risk takers.  I think this is a number one rule – don’t be afraid to go where other community leaders haven’t gone before, because that is exactly where we often find the most satisfaction, by blazing new trails to find new possibilities.  So, go on now, get started, and take a small risk, then a bigger one and so on…
  2. Think like entrepreneurs.  According to Wikipedia, “an Entrepreneur in English is a term applied to a person who is willing to help launch a new venture or enterprise and accept full responsibility for the outcome.”
  3. Can work with a shoe string budget.  It’s important to be scrappy and just figure it out versus going the distance to try to get funding.  I often find that if you cherry pick and take that low hanging fruit, get video testimonials, quotes and in expensive feedback that you incorporate into your on-going conversation or proposal, it is faster.  What I mean is that you can ultimately get funding by using a quickly capturing the story along the way that you are recruiting and identifying community members.  It not only creates a social memory and story – but also becomes the basis for a longer term funding pitch.
  4. Creative.  Use new media to bring people into the conversation; do consider a twitter meet up, a new free hang out tool or even bringing someone into a formal meeting via Skype. Whether they are uncreative to you – they may be creative to others.  I recently learned this through using the www.meet-meme.com cards.  It’s colorful, vintage like and fun.  Think about new ways to bring imagery and tactical into your conversations.
  5. Leverage resources.  Check in with all community managers to see if they have a few people they would propose that join your committee, core team or program.  Check in with your social networks as to whom within their companies could come as a guest presenter to bring outside though into your company.  Consider sharing with a competitor during a conference during an industry event.  Read and read more.  There is so much to find on twitter by just searching hash tags, that you will be lost for days trying to make sense of it all.  Make sure to scan the on-line blogs, tweets and industry magazines to tap into some thought leaders, bloggers or commenter’s to get a sense of others to invite into helping solve your problem.
  6. Know thy problems – speaking of the problem. You must know how to clearly define what your problem is and how this community of diverse thinkers can help solve it.  Aka – community charter – but one common way to get people to rally around a conversation is by starting with a problem.  People instinctively want to help, they enjoy competition, sharing and solving – so why not really understand the problem that exists and share it.  Hard to do if it’s a B2C community or even B2B because it can show your warts – but that is what these tools are made for right now
  7. Politically map – ensure you are asking everyone in your social journey along the way that is nodes they would recommend to talk to within the market, geo, function or ERG.  Through this process you will start to uncover diamonds in the rough.  Linda Linfield taught me this years ago, build relationships with those that you want to influence and leverage the relationship you have with them to influence their thinking.  It’s simple and effective.
  8. Walk the talk – it’s a requirement that along the journey, you embody the collaborative principles– it’s contagious.
  9. Engage SMEs – make sure that you are talking to people that face customers and are experts in their subject matter – they will often have direct contact with customers, suppliers or employees that they rely on for their day job. Often times these people are hard to reach whether they are in the Amazon working on heavy equipment or just really busy loving their day job.  But  the people that are doing the day to day work are resources we must leverage – but be mindful they are highly respected and require kit gloves in handling as they are often hard to reach
  10. Encourage inclusion – make your community a safe and welcoming place for members. Do practice being authentic, warm and embodying the community guiding principles!

Community Engagment Tips

Make time to look in the mirror!

Resources – do you have a community manager assigned to ensure you have focus?  Important to ensure that they have a cultivation plan, charter and are working to perform health checks with members to modify and drive accordingly.

Relevancy – are the content assets relevant to the members?  Do they have click thru’s, links and/or are the appropriate length that will drive user engagement?

Feedback – ensure that you are constantly engaging your members to request insight when engaging to ensure that you are incorporating changes and ideas that are member driven as you evolve the community.

Connectedness – critical factors are living and breathing collaborative approaches whenever you approach social learning – so do make sure that you are warm and offer connectedness in your approach as a leader.

Walking the Talk – make sure that you embody the collaborative principles as you operate – it’s contagious

SMEs – thought leaders, subject matter experts or external guests are important to cycle into your community event planning to switch up the cadence and infuse new perspective into the community.

Games and Fun – make sure that you think about approaching your events with some exercises, games or other fun activities to make it more engaging for participants.

Learning – build social learning principles into all that you do relative to your communities.

Leadership – walk the talk in everything you do as it relates to your community.  Drive the desired outcomes to completion, facilitate conversations on behalf of your members and advocate!

Warmth – make your community a safe and welcoming place for members.  Do practice being authentic, warm and embodying the community bill of rights!

Harnessing Network Power

There has always been power in numbers, right?  Yet I continue to be amazed by this notion of collaborative outcomes buzz.  This warm glow is shining bright for citizens of the world – we are having our moment.  We are connecting through social spaces, engaging in meaningful projects, initiatives and other community work.  I’m forever grateful to those who have paved the way.

It really does take one seed, from one individual tossed in the air can that can nurture and start new possibilities.  It can ignite a team collaboration, foster culture change or even societal transformation. Yes indeed – we are in the ripe era of harnessing the power of our collective network potential.  It is bursting with flavor like a Mango groove in season.  Which is why this model of Collective Ambition by  Douglas A. Ready and Emily Truelove, is noteworthy to mention.  I hope you find this useful within your efforts, organizations or projects to help with any sense making required for your community efforts.

Community Manners

Etiquette basics such as you’ll find in Miss Manners, Debrett’s and Emily Post apply in online communities also – yet it’s easy to forget about manners when we are saturated in a day to day online community environment, so we thought we could share a few manners we have found most helpful to guide our daily online community lives.

Understand people are different and don’t assume.

Do you like to have your mobile phone beep at you with new status notifications?  How about listening to the noise of a colleague who has sound play for each tweet or instant message that arrives?  The first question is about how you manage your preferences.  The second is about how other’s preferences are important.  Both are part of good manners.  Language is also important – we may think we are being clear when we post a comment on within a community, but often they require clarification, explanation and/or further context.  So, don’t be offended if someone comes across short, unclear or frustrated.  Remember to be understanding, apologize and try to find another way to approach the topic.  So don’t assume that everyone has your experiences, cultural understanding, knowledge or common language – because we don’t.  Do assume positive intent and just invest in deepening meaning and understanding through dialogue and inquiry.

Invite! 

With corporations, individuals may play a role formally, but do have many competencies outside of their current role.  Don’t assume that an individual can’t or won’t contribute simply due to their role, title, etc.  Often times you can miss great contributors if you aren’t trying to assume how and/or what role they play.  Simply extend invitations and offers and allow members to determine where, what or when they will engage with the community.

The old adage that if we build it they will come simply doesn’t work.  We can turn on facebook pages, twitter lists and linked in groups – but that doesn’t mean they will come.  You need to understand your audience first and what is in it for them (WIFM) so that we are building a true ‘community’ where people are connecting over a product, service, business problem, or support issue.  It’s important to be spending time to tend and nurture this community in a non heavy handed way and marketing is NOT equal to community.  If you are approaching the communities as simply the same old marketing materials but in a new medium – that won’t work either, so make sure that you are bringing real conversations that are authentic, open and transparent into the social sphere.

Be honest.

If you don’t have an answer – quickly turn around and use your network within the organization or escalate through your management chain.  The most important thing we can do as knowledge brokers is to find the information quickly and share it back with the requestor and then teach them what we learned.  Was there a broken link?  Then tell them and thank them for highlighting this oversight but tell them you fixed it.  Then share feedback intra organization about this and/or think about how you can influence shoring up any broken processes in the meantime.

Jump in – walk the talk.  You will get more credibility in a commuity if you are active in another networks–don’t limit yourself, consider joining other communities and post interesting research information, good videos and/or other content that isn’t just marketing focused.

by Lauren Klein & Sharon Crost

Top Five for Content Curators

Content Curation Pathways

Know Thy Tags – make sure that you are familiar with the key tags that your key audience is using to tag their content so that you can ensure that your analytics tools are providing you with the dashboard you need to monitor

Perform Health Checks – ensure you are spending time to monitor new content creation, modifications, tags, shares,  likes, dislikes, subscriptions, followers or changes.  In  other words, pattern monitoring.

Monitor Conversations – carve out time every day to scan questions, answers and knowledge sharing within your key product, service, or content areas so that you can dive into them to respond, augment, thank and/or connect to other areas within the tools or discussions.

Tend the Garden Pathway – it’s important that in your cultivation activities you invest time to review pathways so as to ensure that they are meeting the needs of your members.  This includes pulling inappropriate content, cross referencing relevant or simliar content, facilitate safe pathways or simply invest in time to fertilize or foster social learning as needed.  What I mean by that is that it is important to facilitate an answer to the community content,  watch for new content so t hat you can facilitate the conversation, answer, problem, complaint, etc.  Make sure that content is linked to appropriate other objects such as spaces, pages, videos, blogs, etc.

Practice Gratitude – throughout your daily process, you should spend time to pick up the phone, send a message, mail eCards, and regular cards, send gifts, insert video highlights into online photo booth or simply put names on a marquee.  Just make sure you are demonstrating
gratitude and thankfulness.

Focusing on the Patient

Increasing patient care – this is what it’s all about.  Through my work with physicians over the last few years, I’ve come to really experience how this is  in fact their main focus.  Contrary to what you may read, they do really care about their patients.  Good to hear right?  So, what brings me to share my experience, well I’ve just returned from a weeklong conference which inspired me to write this post.

With the on-set of patients utilizing social media to connect and collaborate, many physicians are looking at these tools as a way to connect bridge and assist in efforts to increase patient care.   It’s exciting to see them embrace a new approach to engage with patients.  We patients, we are hungry for information about healthcare, about the best care, who to use, who has experience, how we  can share our stories and experiences as well as receive information on other experiences.

I was so impressed with Herbert Wolfsen, M.D. at the Mayo Clinic, I  co-authored a medical abstract on his experience in developing a Facebook group to support Esophageal cancer patients.  Why you ask?  Well, it was a wonderful opportunity for me to learn and provide insight into the work Dr. Wolfsen has done in supporting this important group.  Because patients in this group face distinctive issues, it is important for them to connect with each other to share experiences.  The Facebook group is fostering the member’s needs to not only connect with the doctor himself, but with other patients with interest in this area.  This could allow them to have social learning beyond any F2F discussion’s they may have had in the past and continue the dialogue, but through an online venue even richer since it was a larger group.  Overall, I find it encouraging to see such physicians branching out of the hospital and utilizing online tools to enable connections in modern means that engage, support and educate patients.

By Michelle Groff Burling

Social Artistry – Linking the Unlinkable

In a meeting in San Francisco with Etienne Wenger in 2008, we were discussing the critical role of a weaver in the field of Communities.  It is more commonly known as a community manager.  Etienne described this ‘community weaver’ as someone who is a Social Artist.  This was the first time I had heard this term, yet when he described what he meant, I felt validated in the work that I’ve been doing for years. Being a weaver, or what Richad Koch calls, a SuperConnector.

Recently a former colleague was mentioning that they missed my role in the community.  She was lamenting the fact that I’d rolled off that closed community project as I was invited into a new community project.  What she was described to me in great detail in terms of the void that I
left in the community was that of the Social Artist role.  This is why I’m writing this blog post, to help provide more visibility and credibility to this capability as it’s not yet mainstream and therefore something that CEOs and other Executives don’t value within their organizations.

Wikipedia describes it as a technique, “Social Artistry, [6] represents a new model for leadership. Houston, working through the United Nations Development Group, has been training leaders through this modality since 2003. Under the direction
of Monica Sharma, [7]then Director of Leadership and Capacity Development for the UN, Houston traveled to developing nations throughout the world bringing Social Artistry techniques to leadership groups. As of 2011, Social Artistry  trainings and projects are ongoing in a number of countries and new leaders are being trained on a constant basis. This work is supported through The Jean Houston Foundation.”

Puzzle Pieces Cory Doctorow from London, UK

Social Artistry is a leadership skill where someone provides the glue and holds the entire community or network together.  They have an innate ability to see strange divergent connections between disparate concepts together via culture, human beings, and notions of progress and development.  They link the unlinkable.   They foster a feeling of connectedness despite the divergence and most importantly they communicate openly and authentically.    They make what could feel like a fragmented bunch of networks, instead the sense a community has is one similar to that of a puzzle that was recently completed, when you as a member visualize that last single piece snapping into place, which resonates
with your interpretation of that image. It just fits.

Community Cultivation Planning

Wild Northern Nevada Mustangs

Now that I have a community, a community manager and member –what’s next, they ask.  It all depends as one size doesn’t fit all.

I’ve been invited into many conversations regarding what to do once you have a community in place and what I’m consistently finding the
question that begs an answer is, “Do you have a cultivation plan?”  What are you doing as a community manager to tend and nurture your members?  Well, I’m spending time creating FAQs, facilitating webinars for training and answering support questions.  Those are all excellent activities and what I find in my client engagements is that you

need to customize your cultivation plans to the community charter and have
participation architecture in mind as you evolve this notion of a plan.

Here are some elements to consider:

  • Evaluate the health
  • Provide feedback
  • Give recognition
  • Foster cross community connections
  • Identify and develop community leaders
  • Consider  face to face element programs
  • Incorporate social responsibilities
  • Infuse notions of gamification
  • Send out personal thank you notes – yah I said it, use the old school post
  • Refresh your existing approach with on-boarding based based on analysis of members digital habitats
  • Consider cultivating a welcome wagon

These are all examples of things that could be part of your cultivation plan.  I encourage you to ensure that you are thinking about a myriad of approaches to tend and nurture your community as you do any garden.  Good luck and continue to reach out to me with your feedback and
questions.  There is no ‘right’ answer, rather it’s the journey, so consider it an adventure of how you can entice the wild horses to drink from a

Got a Community tattoo, notch or mark?

Last week I attended #JW11 and got to thinking about my personal ‘notch’ metaphorically speaking for a community leather belt.  When you are amongst amazing talent in your colleagues at a conference, it is infectious and one can start to feed off the energy in the room, which I did.  At the
same time, it was an opportunity to reflect on my personal mark in my professional field of Community Building as I had the opportunity to meet
people that I’d not yet had the honor to meet in this field.  Therefore, I challenge each of us as community weavers or managers to think about our legacies, our tattoos, notches or marks that we desire in our community lives.  Is it an adoption rate, a culture shift, a new technology, or new idea?  It’s a very personal manner how one defines their personal mission statement or their approach to the shiny quarter.  Which is why I implore that each of us in our field spends some time quarterly to reflect on our approaches in communication, technology and stewardship?

Lastly, I was relieved when I reviewed the definition of community in Wikipedia, since the sociologists are also confused on the term, Community, as it means something to everyone in a different way.   “In sociology, the concept of community has led to significant debate, and sociologists are yet to reach agreement on a definition of the term. There were ninety-four discrete definitions of the term by the mid-1950s.[1]

Community Valor

MerriamWebster’s defines valor as, “strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness: personal bravery.”  Whether you are working with an organization or an individual on their personal behavior or knowledge blind spots, you should come to the table prepared with your valor, so as to be prepared for backlash or other fears, which is outlined nicely in the Align Consulting presentation.

I was speaking with a KM Leader recently for a billion dollar company about how his Communities budget was cut and how it’s going to be a challenge to embed in this critical collaborative program into the day to day lives of individuals given the current economic environment
as well as the time that individuals have to invest in realizing business goals.  I coached him to be resilient and speak with others in the field about their programs on the cheap and what has worked for them, as we have all been through difficult economic times within  organizations and it often helps to talk with others in the same space.  But more than anything I’ve found that it requires deep focus on the business outcomes and clarity of mind to allow you to not get discouraged yet channel your passion and energy into a more positive manner that allows you to be brave, while taking risks and weathering the storm.    During times like these that I find solace in professional network as they provide much needed fuel for standing firm with valor. These can take different forms for different individuals- but indeed it’s the journey that is the most important and I’ve personally found that VALOR is a word that I wear with pride, like a flag, it a  symbol, a reminder to focus on the future with hope and possibilities.