Community tips for new leaders

Sad to say, many leaders cannot find time to read a book or even a lengthy article. Here, for the time-challenged, are the notes of an interviewer who chatted with me earlier this month.


It’s not about the technology.

* Boil learning down to its basics; then match up to Internet technologies.
* Learning is social – if you’re raised by wolves you won’t develop what makes us human.
* We learn through participation. Encourage people to start experimenting.

The added value of technology is then that it helps you make more connections, and potentially do more with them.

* Tools like wikis, when they hit a rich and latent seam in the organization, also have the scope to shoot through information silos.
* If people have burning issues to deal with, they will find a way to work and learn together, no matter what the technology infrastructure.

So the most responsive approach is to find the affinity group and then layer the technology on top.

Communities of practice are natural affinity groups who will take to social networking.

* Much of the discussion that goes on is about defining the way the community will deal with the future.

Nine out of ten wikis fail. Why? Because it’s easy to set one up, so many people do this, but if there’s no reason for it to exist, no one’s going to come and add to it.

* Meeting off-line is a valuable and important way of reinforcing ties within a social network.
* You can’t force a social network to succeed.
* All you can do is create the optimum conditions for it to flourish where and when it takes hold.
* A buddy system can be useful for new entrants, to ‘meet and greet,’ show them the ropes and help build confidence.

Every group needs a champion.

* Peer support is a different function from championing, and it’s hard for one person to combine the two.
* It’s also important to have support roles like clearing up all the crap that happens on a wiki and keeping it clean and coherent.

You’ve got to give up control.

* Knowledge workers have to be trusted – otherwise they won’t be able to do the work that’s expected of them.
* Nowadays you can do guerrilla prototyping of just about anything – this gets round the corporate IT department’s control.
* As a participant, you take control; you don’t need an expert.