Seven Principles of Cultivating Communities of Practice

mickyates Best Practice, Community, Social Networks Leave a Comment

An older article / book review from HBR, but it seems quite timely as I am doing work on the subject right now.

By Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, and William M. Snyder

“In Silicon Valley, a community of circuit designers meets for a lively debate about the merits of two different designs developed by one of the participants. Huddling together over the circuit diagrams, they analyze possible faults, discuss issues of efficiency, propose alternatives, tease out each other’s assumptions, and make the case for their view.

In Boston, a group of social workers who staff a help line meet to discuss knotty client problems, express sympathy as they discuss difficulties, probe to understand each other’s feelings, and gently offer suggestions. Their meetings are often deeply challenging and sometimes highly emotional. The fact-driven, sometimes argumentative, meetings of the Silicon Valley circuit designers are extremely different from the compassionate meetings of the social workers in Boston.

But despite their differences, the circuit designers’ and social workers’ communities are both vibrant and full of life. Their energy is palpable ………………..

……………….. From our experience we have derived seven principles:

  • Design for evolution.
  • Open a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives.
  • Invite different levels of participation.
  • Develop both public and private community spaces.
  • Focus on value.
  • Combine familiarity and excitement.
  • Create a rhythm for the community.”

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Be heard above the Electronic Din

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From Fast Company, by Christopher Percy Collier, October 2005

Email, instant messaging, Web conferencing, blogs. So many new ways of communicating–and yet they’ve paradoxically made it harder for leaders to get their messages across effectively. As the number of virtual communication methods continues to expand–have you started your video blog yet?–we spoke with Alan L. Nelson, a partner in the communication strategy consultancy CRA Inc., for guidance. He has worked with leaders at companies such as McDonald’s, PepsiCo, and Capital One to help them embrace these tools, understand how and when to use them, and make sure they can get their messages across.

1. Match the Medium To the Message.

You don’t fire 10,000 people in an email. You don’t announce a major restructuring via Webcast. Choose the appropriate tool for each communication event based on the complexity of your message and its strategic importance. As the significance rises, so does the need to meet face-to-face. You may have a full quiver of devices, but not all will hit the bull’s-eye.

2. Be Obsessively On Message.

Ten years ago, there were fewer ways to address a company and few opportunities to do it. Now it’s the inverse. Employees get 500 emails a day. Messages from the CEO don’t register like they used to. In order to be heard, leaders must beat the same drum. “Find a way to tie what you’re saying into the bigger message,” says Nelson. “Or don’t communicate it.””

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