Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Creating a Community Led Organisation

In the emerging WEB 2.0 world, the next thing since sliced bread is the leverage provided by your communities (users/ suppliers/ influencers) etc. The idea is to empower the community to contribute to product ideas/ innovation/ create content (the so called User generated content) etc. But the question is- how does an organization become community led, and how does one create a vibrant community in the first place?

Well, as it happens, there are entirely new models that are emerging out there that are entirely community led –the best examples I can think of are Mozilla and Wikipedia. Think about it- how can you create a community that is so engaged that it does work for you without getting paid? Mozilla is the creator of Firefox, the browser, which today has a marketshare approaching 20%- approx 1 in 5- which is truly amazing, because, unlike IE, Mozilla does not come bundled when you buy your laptop/pc.

So, what are the secrets to building successful communities?

  • The Cause has to be bigger than just creating commercial success - when you choose a cause to rally your community around, please ensure that the payoff to the community that contributes is beyond business- and has a big feel good factor about it. Mozilla's vision for the world is not a better browser, but a free and an open internet, which of course is enabled by the gateway to the internet, the browser.
  • The community has to be empowered- you have to delegate decision-making to the community- in other words, it is not enough to just tell the community- please do the work, but we will take all the decisions- in some cases this could be against the decisions in your organization, but so be it
  • There has to be sound leadership- a concern with large community led initiatives is that there are too many voices that might be pointing in different directions (classical Brownian motion)- hence there is need for clear lines of authority to ensure things happen
  • The guiding principles have to be very clear about what stays in and what goes out- it is really important to establish what the community will stand for, and more important, what it will not. These guiding principles/ or the constitution if you will, will perhaps be crucial to the community selecting itself, and ensuring that decisions taken are along the guidelines so established (eg Mozilla has taken a conscious call that it will not "sell" any of the browser real estate for commercial consideration, but will be happy to take money off search-engines by inserting those search engines into the functionality)
  • Define the core, but have plenty of peripheral areas- it is not always possible to take on all the ideas that the community is proposing. But one does not want to miss out on any cool ideas either. One way solve for this is to ensure that there are plenty of "sandboxes" where individuals can create stuff for the others to play around with, which, after a process of due diligence can be brought back into the core. This also increase inclusivity.
  • Think different about functions such as Marketing and HR-Mozilla wanted to put up an ad in a mainstream newspaper, they went to their community and raised $10-$20 from about 10,000 of their community, which paid for the ad.

Of course, the above is not to say that if all the rules are followed, the organization will become community led- but it is a start.

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