Solving Problems through Communities

Connect community members who can solve the problems or address the needs.

Once a community knows what the big problems are and have rank-ordered them, they can begin dealing with the items of greatest value to the community. 

For cross-corporate communities, good facilitators connect existing and potential community members from all over the world—across those corporate boundaries, geographic boundaries, time zone boundaries and so on—who are passionate about solving the problem and bring them together virtually.  They decentralize authority. They enable the success of community members by providing important resources such as teleconference numbers, e-meetings where participants can share their screen, infrastructure for sharing files or engaging in asynchronous forum discussions and provide communications channels.

Great facilitators help members to share knowledge, discuss, debate, and come up with something that’s better than what any one person brought to the table. They work with the community members to find creative ways to address the problems.

Taking this servant-leader approach, facilitators help their communities to develop courses or job aids, to write books, to engage in pilots of practices and technologies or even to deliver conferences on specific topics. 

Encouraging community participation means getting to “WIIFM.”

Inspiring volunteer communities to engage in activities that make a significant difference to community members, the enterprise and customers, requires focusing on the right problems, demonstrating personal benefits for each participant and building relationships between community members. In short, there must be a focus on “what’s in it for me” or WIIFM for each participant.

Increase participation by focusing on the right problems.

The most critical element is to focus on the right problems. The efforts should, in some way,  make the jobs of participants easier. By asking about problems, needs and goals and rank-ordering those, there is a better chance that the community is focusing where the value is.

Try to engage community members such that any hour that they put into the community will return multiples of hours of value back to them.

Facilitators should be to know the people within their community and create ways for members to get to know one another’s challenges, needs and goals, as well. A community is not just a distribution list, it’s not the list of people in a forum or how many people have friended you. It’s the people.

Increase participation by providing personal benefits.

A second key to building a thriving community is to ensure that engaging in community activities will deliver significant individual, personal benefits to the people who volunteer. As corny as it may sound, great facilitators listen to the hopes and dreams of volunteers, particularly as they relate to the topic of your community. They understand where they’re going and what they need personally and look for ways to make that happen as they’re delivering value by solving community problems.  Through that process, enterprise communities have helped people to become first time inventors, authors, to be able to put global leadership activities on their resumes, to have the experiences to build the case for their annual evaluations, etc.

Increase participation through recognition.

Recognition is a powerful way to increase the energy of your community. From putting peoples’ pictures in a newsletter, to making sure that any deliverables include the names of the people who created them, great facilitators find ways to recognize their members. The IBM DevOps Community began each call with 5-minutes to recognize people who had gone above and beyond in the community. That recognition was a way of expressing gratitude and a way of inspiring others to participate.

Increase participation by building friendships.

It’s easy for people to become disconnected in a large organization. By engaging in conversations and listening to each other’s stories and getting to know each other better, facilitators can help the community to establish strong relationships and friendships that last beyond the work group or committee.

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