This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
By Kim Castenmiller and Remco Mostertman of HRcommunity
Published on May 18, 2010 at www.frankwatching.nl
Communities, Social Media and its impact on organizations are top of mind. Twitter is a frequent topic of discussion and workshops LinkedIn pop up frequently. Community-based work and learning are praised, but does it stand for something new? Or is it just old wine in new bottles?
More and more organizations and professionals value community-based work and learning. From the perspective of HRcommunity, we never cease to amaze the value of this approach for learning and working. This article will provide you with answers to the questions: What are communities? Where does the sudden focus for communities come from? What is community-based work and learning? What distinguishes it from other ways of work and learning? What makes the success? What does it mean for organizations and the organization structure?
What are communities?
A community sounds exciting but it is nothing new. It is another word for fellowship, a group of people who have something in common. On Wikipedia we read: "[...] The word is often used to refer to a group that's organized around common values [...] '. Nevertheless, the definition of community in our time has a new moment and is booming. In the book "Human resource management Today and Tomorrow," by a.o. Bantje, from 1965 (!), the authors give their views on organizations and work in the year 2000. They challenge the question, "Will the company of the future develop into a working community in the true sense?". A working community, they claim, is characterized by the huge commitment of the employee with his job, his colleagues and the company.
DIRECTION. A community exists by virtue of a shared direction. The road leads to a goal. This goal is
often not clearly defined or very concrete. But the appealing prospect is clear. It is often true that, as in Buddhism, the path to the goal is also part of this goal. When members of a community drift too much from the course, this leads to friction or collisions and therefore a less effective functioning and ultimately "fading" community. In a properly functioning community, the group dynamics provide necessary 'alignment' of individual members. In the extreme case, a member who cannot or will not participate in the course will (have to) resign.
COHESION. Our experience is that communities are characterized by a high degree of cohesion. That
unity where Bantje a.o. is talking about is the most characteristic aspect of a community. In communities members share the same passion, interest or vision. Because of the shared values, there is certainly a strong commitment. Commitment to a brand, an organization or purpose of the organization.
DYNAMICS. The way in which a community is organized and structured differs. In a LinkedIn group,
people share the same interest or have a similar aspiration. Social networks change every day. A more organized and structured appearance is the network organization. One or more people at the core, surrounded by a number of flexible shells of professionals who often might be committed to other networks or organizations as well. The over-structured form of a fellowship we see in many of our current organizations. A community however is dynamic. Often varying in compositions and aura. The structure of a community is constantly changing, depending on the way it develops or on the phase of a creation. It is characterized by its flexibility: if rigged, the structures can be relatively easily released and removed when no longer serving the purpose. A big difference compared to traditional organizations in which bastions are not easily released.
SEPARATION. Within communities own identities and units exist. Members, individuals or
organizations operate individually and independently. Each member serves the bigger picture without being dependent on this or being fully taken in by this. Participation in the community contributes to (creating) a slightly larger purpose and the purpose at large. Which yields individual results in return and often contributes to his or her personal development.
INITIATOR. A community begins with an idea and someone who initiates the start of the community.
As Seth Godin states in Tribes: a "tribe" starts with a leader. And everyone can be that leader. In the beginning, the leader is generally the same person as the initiator, though this does not necessarily has to be the case throughout the lifecycle of a community. The leader provides direction and inspiration. Groups can start through a common interest but a group is successful only if there exists a leader who inspires and facilitates the group process. Leaders of communities do not act authoritatively or push themselves to the forefront as such. They are people who take responsibilities in a passionate way and use their talent and creativity to stimulate the group process. The modern social networks make it possible for any leader to find people willing to help shaping a creative idea or effecting an innovative change.
Where does the sudden focus on communities come from?
As stated, communities are not new. But why is there so much focus on suddenly? There are two reasons. First the technical hardware is developing in a furious pace together with the enormous expand of internet possibilities. This offers rapidly growing opportunities to keep communities alive without members physically getting together. The second reason is that within communities it is all about commitment. That is exactly what many organizations have lost. Those are equipped and managed according to the principles of the Industrial Age, have a focus on differences and (sub-) parts. Fragmented so to speak. Communities, on the other hand, work from a holistic approach, sharing commitment and values which apply to this spirit of time.
Due to the transition from the Industrial Age to the Digital Age many feel that working and learning is changing fundamentally. Forming communities is nothing new. But the technology that enables new forms of relating is. Many paradigm shifts take place, making it possible for us to recover the true essence; the spirit of communities. With a face-lift however, because although the individual is still important for the community, the power is derived from all individuals serving a bigger purpose, which in return serves each individual.
Paradigms Organizations Communications and networks Organizing principle
Organizations are closed systems Complex structure and 'old boys' network Hierarchy and structure. "Who ever is the boss may command." Divide and conquer: fragmentary. Look at differences. The staff is there for the boss. Command & control.
Organizations are open systems Transparent and to map online
Equality and human talent. "He who knows may speak?". Holistic view. Look at what connects.
The boss is there for the employees. Confidence, direction and ownership. Organic growth. Qualitative growth through continuous value creation. From scratch, organic.
Growth in quantity. Company results increase by savings or increasing production. Blueprint, by fits and starts.
What is community-based working and learning?
Community-based working and learning is based on the principles that fit the Digital Age. In communities one works and learns out of trust. Everyone operates based on personal strength. It does not matter what title a person holds or where a person is employed. No hands tied and no obligations. Each individual explores and exploits his or her talent and works from personal strength. Added value ('wisdom of the crowd ") and a common goal are the basics. Reciprocity is a important given. Taking, but above all, giving is substantial. If people just give and take, the process stops. Working in communities only allows a structure that grows organically and logically and supports the creation process. `Connecting officers` might come in handy, they will announce themselves. A swarm, as we know from the animal kingdom, is a nice metaphor for community-based working and learning. Communities are active in various combinations, similar to birds or bees. We go where we go and we do what we do. If we just make beautiful things from true intentions to contribute to society, does it matter what, where or how we operate? The absolute New World of Work. Learning in an information society is increasingly determined by learning in networks. According to Wim Veen, the future student will be a networker; he or she is accustomed to find information using social networks and profound use of technology. Information is consulted if it is required for something ("instant need"). The future student will be capable to find creative solutions and develop new forms of economic activity within collective communities. In addition, more and more scientific
and common knowledge is available for free, which can be used for learning purposes. This makes the process of learning more important and the content less.
What distinguishes it from other working and learning that apparently resemble?
We notice that many people wonder what community-based working and learning is all about. And how it relates to peer review forms, crowd funding, crowd sourcing, co-creation and open innovation. We will make a brief summary. Peer review forms are formats used for ‘peer group learning’. A community can be a community of peers, but not necessarily. In a peer review, the individual and his problem hold central position. Community-based learning however involves the learning of the collective: the entire community. This exceeds the sum of individual learnings. In the long run relationships will develop within a community, positively influencing the learning curve. The starting point of community-based working is not always a problem to be solved. A shared ambition (f.e. a better and brighter world) also stimulates learning and development as a collective. Crowd funding and crowd sourcing are examples of applying the "wisdom of the crowd ' principle and collectivity. Crowd funding according to Wikipedia: 'Collective cooperation, attention and trust by people who network and pool their money together, usually via the Internet, in order to Support efforts initiated by other people or organizations. ". In crowd sourcing a more defined question is highlighted which is placed in the interest of the ‘crowd’ for a specific period of time. Co-creation and open innovation are specific forms of innovation used in the Digital Age. Customers, users, suppliers and organizations collaborate on a development, a creation of a product or service. Based on equal cooperation and a win-win situation. Co-creation can be a one-off way of working on where the supplier - customer relationship still applies. All of the described configurations are specific implementations of community based working and learning, applicable to the Digital Age. Community-based working and learning however go beyond those and this is fundamental. It covers more, there is rhythm, continuity and a high degree of openness. Community-based working and learning is not just a configuration to apply, it is a ‘way of living and working '. Community-based working and learning is a fundamental choice. Community-based working and learning is not about money. There are shared values, a strong belief in the idea and it requires an active, independent attitude, with more focus on creating added value. Therefore, fortune hunters and short-term thinkers will not directly – be at ease. In accordance, community-based working and learning is more effective and more sustainable than many other ways of 'organizing'.
What makes the success?
1. A long breath. The last couple of years the HRcommunity gained experience with community based working and learning. What makes the HRcommunity special is the inner circle of more than thirty people with no strings attached, cooperating in building something beautifully. It is not about money. Each person is commercially oriented and needs money for a living. But the shared passion is to build something and help develop the HR & Change domain, starting from honest intentions and an eye for quality. Especially in the world of communities and social media it is a gradual process, it is a matter of patience, perseverance and sticking to the primary initiative. 2. Trust. In the community, it is about the balance between give and take. There is considerable investment. On the other hand, the community offers a lot. A stage, increasing networks, inspiration and reflection, gaining more in depth knowledge and a broadened view. Along with opportunities for new projects, new jobs and with that the cash flow continues. Guarantees do not exist, no commitments are made and certainly not on paper. Community-based work requires a profound belief in the initiative, the way of working, and especially in trusting the potential. Confidence in "the leader", in each other and trust in the community and its course as such. 3. Organic. Community based working means starting from an idea, a passion, an ambition and a higher goal of innovation. Enhance, create and make a contribution. The exact goal and how to achieve it, is up to the members. This sounds quite logical and simple. Until you start working like this. Questions will rise like 'what will I get", "what should I do', 'what is the program". The principle of doing all this together apparently is not that obvious. This is where some individuals start to hesitate, especially when the initiatives require budget. "So I bring my own knowledge and skills, my network, my inspiration and my passion. I will be working and producing, doing everything myself. And I still have to invest budget?" Many people do not realize what community-based working and learning really means. It takes time to adapt to the shifted paradigm. This also means that people who are not ready, or unable to adapt, distance themselves. 4. Developing habits. People involved in the development and expansion of HRcommunity work wherever and whenever they want. However, they do work based on a set of agreements with each other. Once agreed, one is expected to stick to these agreements. Since everyone has another job to earn a living, a shift in priority due to obligations is sometimes respected. Provided that value is still added to the community there is no problem, it might even be a strength to organize and collaborate this way. 5. Out of strength. The members expect a more or less equal contribution from one another, which might differ. Everyone is working from his own strength and talent, which might be different to each individual as well. Added value is relatively easy to recognize in results. When members (potentially) disrupt the process within a starting community, the required intervention has to be taken by the initiator(s) most of the time. In time the group process will start taking care of this.
HRcommunity is more than the New World of Work. There are no hard and clear targets. There are no agreements on 'what is in it for me. " HRcommunity works from trust and a sparkling belief in a bright future, where everyone can have a share of the cake.
What does community-based work mean for organizations and the organization structure?
It already showed in 1965: in theory, organizations can be seen as work communities. In communities work needs to be accomplished and there is a strong shared commitment. This is exactly what lacks in many organizations. Structure, processes and procedures take a central position. Getting to the roots, the higher goal of organizations ("why are we on earth"), commitment with ambition and strategy ("what do we strive for and how"), commitment with values ("what do we stand for") and most important: the relationship with one another has often disappeared to the background. Organizations are communities. Or should be. People in organizations need to feel something in common. Something uniting them. This is what traditionally structured organizations can learn from communities.
More and more organizations try to introduce community based working and learning in order to create unity and commitment. This often fails or is very hard to accomplish. Existing organizations have a disadvantage, because community-based work is not natural to them. The Industrial Age is deeply rooted. It is not to be found in rules and procedures, in behavior and culture, in leadership, and especially not in history. There are no heroes and therefore there is no storytelling. Will it be possible for an existing 'old school' organization to start working this new way? Can they remain as they are and still use Social Media to position themselves? You can either adopt the ideas of social media and communities within your existing organization, or see it as a first step of innovating your traditional organization. An example of how it should not be adopted, which we stumbled across at in our consultancy practice: an organization made a Social Media application for internal use only (!). Within the organization, people were able to follow and chat with each other . They maintained a closed structure and reinforced this by private Social Media, whereas one of the principles of social media is the fading boundaries. Organizations become open systems and boundaries between customers and employees fade. All are united by the organization and its services. So why not use Twitter to follow and connect to each other by all using the same hash tag? To transform from an ‘old school’ organization to a flexible, adjustable, modern community-based movement, is not impossible but it is quite a challenge. Community-based working just to hang on to the hype or for marketing purposes does not work. Even more so, revenue models of static traditional organizations do not match the new way of working. Community-based work requires a completely different revenue model. And when push comes to shove, management hesitates, the shareholders have cold feet, commissioners do not get it. Work- and project groups are installed and the New ways of Work is a topic high on the agenda of many meetings. After a lot of compromising, ICT will buy the new software and implement it... All set, the community is long gone and somewhere else. Community based working and learning in a traditional organization should be possible from our point of view, but it will take a tremendous amount of guts, break down 'sacred cows' and breaking prevailing views. It takes courage, determination, openness, and above all leadership!
Organizations can learn a lot from the way communities are created. For instance how to operate by values, a common goal and unity. By connecting again: with each other and with nature. By creating space for everyone’s talents in the organization. With the purpose of greater honor and glory of the company targets. And especially for mankind itself. Is a community the highest achievable standard for organizations? We think not. Ultimately it is all about an organizational structure which fits the purpose and nature of the work. There are several organizational structures and each one has its own advantages and disadvantages and suits a certain spirit of time, trade, culture, product and so on. There is a clear difference for instance between the army and police and an internet starter. There are also differences between people, education degrees, ambitions, desires and personalities. One person excels in one organization, the other person in the other organization. We came to believe that traditional organizations will have to change and innovate. The latest generation of employees, Generation Y, are people who look for a more permanent structure in a company and are people who chase freedom by becoming selfemployed to subsequently work for more communities.
Apart from any organization structure one way or the other, the younger generation of employees is looking for meaningfulness, opportunities for developing, a way of working that suits them and reflects their authenticity. Answers to their quest can be found in communities rather than in traditional organizations. This is the big challenge for many – old fashioned – organizations.
About the authors
Remco Mostertman started "his" community in 2008. The HRcommunity is an independent network of people engaged in developing people and organizations by innovating the field of HR and Change. The community already has over 16,000 members. The HR community both online and offline will become more structured by introducing new labels. Remco started as a psychologist and has experience as a HR manager, policymaker, consultant and line manager. Now the time has come for Remco to change course within the world of HR, he dedicated himself into the role of entrepreneur and community manager. Remco often refers to himself as "connecting officer". From the perspective of the HRcommunity, Remco contributes to the field with the goal to create more space and job satisfaction in our country. Kim Castenmiller started her own consultancy agency KIMverandert in 2007. Kim has specialized in contributing to change processes. In particular, she deals with the creation of Yproof organizations: organizations in which Generation Y talent prefer to work. In 2009 Kim published the book "Generation Y: on the job". During 2010 Kim joined the core team of HRcommunity to stimulate the development of the HR & Change field.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.