Having a discussion about knowledge sharing today around the water cooler and I was reminded of a presentation I gave clients looking for advice. Depending on your background you will view communities in different ways or view points. I like this definition;

Communities are groups of people who, for a specific topic, share one or more of the following; Interest, Specialty, Role, Concern, Set of problems and Passion.

Through my experience and the experience shared by my past clients, Community members deepen their understanding by Interacting on an ongoing basis, Asking and answering questions, Sharing their knowledge, Reusing good ideas and Solving problems for one another.

According to Richard McDermott on Communities :

  • Healthy communities have a driving purpose, clear activities, and a sense of accomplishment
  • Communities are becoming integrated into organizations
  • Community leadership and participation are real work and require time
  • Core community members are well-connected through meetings and ongoing contact
  • Healthy communities have high management expectations
  • The heart of a community of practice:
  • peer-to-peer relationships
  • responsibility for stewarding a body of knowledge
  • membership crosses boundaries
  • room for dealing with whatever comes up

Communities can be formed around a profession, special interest such as sports or hobbies or products such as SharePoint. There are many possibilities for communities but its important that topics resonate with the communities.

A critical success factor that always comes up is the organizations support of the communities. It takes time to contribute but the hope is that knowledge is transferred and benefits the organization in many ways (and are measurable) such as:

  • On-boarding employees faster
  • Capturing knowledge and training existing employees
  • Succession planning (Especially in highly outsourced companies)
  • Leveraging customer knowledge to improve customer service
  • Leveraging IP, customer and market knowledge to reduce cost of sale and improve win rate
  • Building teams and culture post M&A

For those wanting to create communities, here are some key steps to follow:

  • Create a community – assess your company structure, services and it provides for ideas. When you have your ideas on paper socialize them with thought leaders or others to get candid feedback.
  • Select a leader – this person should be a thought leader and passionate about what they do. they must also have good communication skills and the time to maintain the community.
  • Build community membership – use the network to build the network, use incentives to motivate people. Are there distribution lists you can use? perhaps an existing community closely related?
  • Publicize and encourage – marketing…marketing…marketing. Praise contributions openly. Write news letters, get the links to the community posted to other sites, use word of mouth and or social networks.
  • Keep the community active – keep content new and relevant, hold a regular conference call with a scheduled speaker and periodic events such as face-to-face meetings and training sessions. Suggest new topics to keep coming.
  • Tools – communication can use a variety of tools such as wikis, discussion forums, facebook to name a few.

I hope this blog helps you, if you would like to share your experience please contact me.