Why Do Communities Matter?

Wendell_Berry_525Photo by Guy Mendes

I’ve just finished reading “What Are People For?”, a collection of essays by Wendell Berry. I don’t always agree with everything Wendell Berry has to say, but I certainly feel like a wiser and better person for having reflected on his point of view.

One of my favorite essays in the book was “The Work of Local Culture”. There were two quotes in the essay about the responsibilities of a community which I thought were worth sharing with all of you, who are helping to build communities in your firms.

The first is about building a shared memory. The second is about building trust. And as you’ll see, the two are related.

Communities Build Shared Memory

“However small a landmark the old bucket is, it is not trivial. It is one of the signs by which I know my country and myself. And to me it is irresistibly suggestive in the way it collects leaves and other woodland shed dings as they fall through time. It collects stories, too, as they fall through time. It is irresistibly metaphorical. It is doing in a passive way what a human community must do actively and thoughtfully. A human community, too, must collect leaves and stories, and turn them to account. It must build soil, and build that memory of itself—in lore and story and song—that will be its culture. These two kinds of accumulations, of local soil and culture, are intimately related.”

Communities Build Trust

“For example, when a community loses its memory, its members no longer know one another. How can they know one another if they have forgotten or have never learned one another’s stories? If they don’t know one another’s stories, how can they know whether or not to trust one another? People who do not trust one another do not help one another, and moreover they fear one another.”

Shared Memory and Trust Lead to Helpful Community Members

Sometimes I think it is easy to get lost in engagement tactics and product features (how to build communities) and lose sight of the big picture (why communities matter).

Building shared memory and trust so that community members will help one another is a pretty good answer to the question of “Why do communities matter?” in my book.

Posted: October 22nd, 2014 | Filed under: Quotable | Comments Off on Why Do Communities Matter?

A Really, Really Smart Way to Get Senior AEC Firm Leaders to Start Sharing Knowledge on a Social Network

How do we get our senior leaders to start sharing knowledge on social networks?

It’s a great question, and not just for marketing directors and intranet managers. Most of the senior leaders of architecture and engineering firms we talk to at Knowledge Architecture want to share their knowledge on LinkedIn, the company blog, and intranet. However, they have two very valid concerns which need to be addressed:

1) How do I know what knowledge of mine is valuable?
2) Where will I find the time?

Overcoming Content Anxiety

I gave a talk called “Short Passes: 5 Ways to Beat Content Anxiety” at KA Connect 2014 this past June.

One of the tips I shared came from Andy Ernsting, Brand Communications Leader at DLR Group. Andy shared the story of driving early adoption of SquareOne (their new intranet) at one of our client workshops last fall.

Andy’s tip speaks right to the heart of the two questions above—”what knowledge should I share?” and “where will I find the time?”

“We’re just asking you to comment. Once a week.”

In the clip above I paraphrased what Andy told the participants in our workshop. Here’s the key part:

“We’re just asking you to comment. Once a week. We’re not necessarily asking you to write long posts. We’re not asking you to bare your soul, or at least not at first.

But what we want you to do, once a week, is just comment on something. Ask a pertinent question. Answer somebody’s question. Thank somebody for sharing what they’ve shared.”

Why This Tip is Awesome

First, asking a leader to comment once a week is totally achievable. You are giving them a specific and easy way to add value, something a time-pressed senior leader can surely appreciate.

Second, when you step back and think about knowledge sharing, a lot of times, the value is in the comments. Someone is asking for help because they don’t have an answer. A lot of your senior leaders have that knowledge and they want to share it—they’re just not quite sure how to get started.

Finally, once your leaders start sharing their knowledge in comments and see how easy and rewarding it is, many of them will go on to write the LinkedIn, blog, and intranet posts you wanted them to write in the first place.

Want to Learn More?

Visit the KA Connect website to watch more talks, connect with our community, and learn more about our annual conference on knowledge management in the AEC industry.

Posted: October 9th, 2014 | Filed under: General, Quotable | Comments Off on A Really, Really Smart Way to Get Senior AEC Firm Leaders to Start Sharing Knowledge on a Social Network

Now that’s what I call a positioning statement.

Bookshop Positioning Statement

This small, yellow, folded piece of paper was placed on top of my wife’s order from BOOK/SHOP. I love the close:

“These are the people we’re working for.”

Perfect.

Posted: May 19th, 2014 | Filed under: Quotable | Comments Off on Now that’s what I call a positioning statement.

“Start with a box.” Or, the best advice I’ve ever read on organizing creative ideas.

The Creative Habit

The following is an excerpt from The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp’s amazing book on creativity:

 

Everyone has his or her own organizational system. Mine is a box, the kind you can buy at Office Depot for transferring files. I start every dance with a box. I write the project name on the box, and as the piece progresses I fill it up with every item that went into the making of the dance. This means notebooks, news clippings, CDs, videotapes of me working alone in my studio, videos of the dancers rehearsing, books and photographs and pieces of art that may have inspired me.

[…]

There are separate boxes for everything I’ve ever done. If you want a glimpse into how I think and work, you could do worse than to start with my boxes.

The box makes me feel organized, that I have my act together even when I don’t know where I’m going yet.

It also represents a commitment. The simple act of writing a project name on the box means I’ve started work.

The box makes me feel connected to a project. It is my soil. I feel this even when I’ve back-burnered a project: I may have put the box away on a shelf, but I know it’s there. The project name on the box in bold black lettering is a constant reminder that I had an idea once and may come back to it very soon.

Most important, though, the box means I never have to worry about forgetting. One of the biggest fears for a creative person is that some brilliant idea will get lost because you didn’t write it down and put it in a safe place. I don’t worry about that because I know where to find it. It’s all in the box…”

 
I first read The Creative Habit back in 2008 and have been following her advice to “start with a box” ever since. My ideas for new products, features, conference speakers, and blog posts all go in “boxes”, which are Basecamp projects for me. I know my ideas are safe and sound in the box, out of my head so I can focus on the work at hand.

When it is time to start working on that product, feature, conference, or post, I always look forward to opening up the box, because by then I’ve completely forgotten the notes I put inside.

One of the benefits of this approach is that when I do eventually open up the box, I get to enjoy the idea all over again. (Assuming it is good. If not, I get a good laugh from the fact I ever thought the idea was worth writing down.)

I was in the process of filing ideas for a new product into a box when I decided to share this. I hope you found it useful and consider reading The Creative Habit.

You won’t regret it.

Posted: May 7th, 2014 | Filed under: General, Quotable | Comments Off on “Start with a box.” Or, the best advice I’ve ever read on organizing creative ideas.

QUOTEABLE: “We continue to stare change in the face…”

“We continue to stare change in the face every day and continue to challenge ourselves with, ‘What do we have to do to remain relevant to our clients?’”

Joe Forehand, Accenture

Posted: April 21st, 2011 | Filed under: Quotable | Comments Off on QUOTEABLE: “We continue to stare change in the face…”