Where do you draw the line?

This is just one of those random thoughts that went through my head this weekend, but was too long to get into 140 characters.

  • An enterprise is an entity that is trying to address the needs and desires of those beyond its boundaries.
  • A community is an entity that is trying to address the needs and desires of those within its boundaries.

It is interesting to keep this in mind when you think about customers, employees and all other stakeholders. Do you consider them to be part of the organization or outside of the organization? It matters with respect to how you choose to interact with them. And conversely, how you choose to interact with them implies what you think of them.

Where you draw a line is important.

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Principles of Community

In the context of an organization, there are certain principles that can be applied in order for that organization to operate more like a community as opposed to a bureaucracy. I have written previously about why I think this is important.

This list is a starting point. Please add your own…

Principles of Community

  • Frictionless information flow
  • Integration of the many into the one
  • Listening is more important than talking (or YELLING)
  • Commonly agreed to ground rules, roles and responsibilities
  • Multi-channel, multi-directional communication
  • Transparency
  • Authenticity
  • What’s good for you, is good for me
  • Everyone has a voice

What’s a Community Architect?

Since I started using the phrase Community Architect the other day, I have been trying to figure out how to explain what one is in a pragmatic way. Or, in other words; what do I deliver?; what is my product?

The first thought that has come to mind is that my deliverable to a client is a Community Blueprint. Development of the blueprint would involve several stages which would define the activity of the engagement. The components of the Blueprint (or whatever product name I settle on) will include:

  • Goal definition – A conversation with the Sponsor of the initiative to determine what they are ultimately trying to achieve. Setting of objectives.
  • Environmental assessment – Review of the current situation, internal and external, with respect to the goal and objectives defined
  • Stakeholder engagement – An active process of bringing all stakeholders (or representatives of all stakeholder groups) into the conversation. Stakeholders will begin using light-weight community based tools at this point in order to see and understand first-hand the concepts of community based collaboration.
  • Roadmap Creation – The process by which stakeholders will identify processes, structures and behaviors necessary to meet goal and objectives.
  • Tool selection – The process by which stakeholders identify specific tools, and vendors that will allow the Roadmap to be implemented.
  • Construction – Setting up the tool infrastructure.
  • Habitation – With the tools in place, the process of encouraging use of the community.
  • Final Inspection – Review with the sponsors to confirm that goal and objectives have been met.

If you will notice, this approach does not distinguish between building a community that is fundamentally internal or external to the boundaries of the enterprise. My belief here is that most communities will span that divide, making such distinction irrelevant. But in those cases where a true internal or external community is prescribed, the process should still be valid.

Community Architect

My new job title.

In my earlier post, The Practice of Community, I defined community to be the integration of the many into the one. Not a bad central concept, but I did not develop any mechanics as to how one actually goes about doing it. Upon further thought I am starting to see how it may work.

Scenario: A client or potential customer approaches you and says, “We need a blog for Brand X”. Now you have a choice as to how to respond.

Option A:

That’s great. I agree. Let me tell you about your blogging options…

Option B:

Why?

The “Option A” response is the technologist. It probably leads to immediate revenue, and a blog that does not deliver any significant ROI. The “Option B” response is the architect. It leads to a long discussion with the client and maybe no revenue, but with the client ultimately making the best decision possible.

I am clearly an architect by nature. I am always trying to find the new design that works better. I am always looking at how myriad things are interconnected. Now I have come to understand that the single concept that encompasses all of the new activity we are seeing happen on-line is the concept of community. So I figure that makes me a Community Architect.

Think about building a house. The object of activity is the house. The house is designed and built to meet the needs and desires of the home owners. The key roles in building the house are architect, general contractor, and sub-contractor.

Now let’s look at Community. The object of activity is the Social Object, the thing about which conversation revolves. The community emerges to meet the needs and desires of the community members. The roles that seem to be in place now to build (planned) communities are the agencies (general contractors) and the tool vendors (sub-contractors). Hey wait! Who is responsible for seeing the big picture? Who works with the community to understand their needs and desires? We need a Community Architect!

The community architect is the one that has the vision of how to integrate the many into the one. Everyone needs a community architect. Send me a tweet, anytime. 🙂