Is your business in search of high communita?

Communita is a word which you would use when there is high social capital emerging from your community. We all know that a community is when a group of people come together with a strong focus or sense of belonging which they can form from any situation, this being a social or a work setting. What then makes the community stronger and drives high engagement is the social capital which forms within it, and the spirit that comes from high social capital then creates the communita.

So what is the magic touch in creating social capital? The foundation block is that the social connections need to have to meaning. This would come from a variety of events which take place. Some excellent examples of companies which offer high social capital include Atlassian; this is a business which offers their ShipIt days as part of their commitment to employee engagement and community. The ShipIt day is a project where everyone in the business drops tools, and for 48 hours work on whatever they want to develop. Once a project or idea comes into force, they showcase them to the business.

Not all the ideas in the ShipIt days are commercially viable. However, the intended purpose of the projects is to drive social capital which then adds this extra layer onto the organisational culture which then brings in Communita. The significant thing about having a high community in a business or a social community is that it progresses the innovation and the productivity. Partly due to connections which start to form in the organisation which leads into other significant areas such as the rise of co-learning. This is an essential tool for the development and motivation of individuals and something which I believe is going to become increasingly important within the future of work and what an organisation will do to achieve high engagement.

It seems that the key to success is:

Social Capital + Communita = engagement = innovation and productivity

Co-learning is interesting as this forms high levels of communita, and often cheaper for a business to run. Having people learn from each other’s skills set rather than being taught in a formal training situation often causes more inspiration and the perfect place for social capital to form. In fact, anything based on sharing and an internal sharing economy are good for high communita. This is way many businesses looks to change their organisational culture to something which is more task and project-based and allows individuals more freedom and flexibility.

The measurable way of seeing if you have the high social capital within your organisation comes from some simple questions which you could ask your community, these include:

Name three people who you worked on a project with outside of your team?

What are the skills which five people in the office have?

Have you developed or learned from others in a natural setting?

Questions such as this would allow you to understand where your current situation is, and if you are finding that answers are short or un answered, you know that social capital needs to be increased as you need communita. It’s good to then look at the creative efforts from Atlassian and other companies to understand how you can bring this concept in place and what needs to be done. The important thing to do in this is to think both creatively and strategically!

My visit to Kibbutz Afikim, how a community powers innovation through a social ethos.

A community can be defined as a group of people who are all working together with one goal in mind and a shared way of thinking. It’s powerful when you can get a group of people together to form high social capital which allows the formation of new ideas which do good to society. Afterall, when you think of a community, good things always come out of it and who doesn’t want that feeling of belonging in their own life.

robert kibbutz

I have several experiences of being part of healthy community life; this comes from my adventures of living and working overseas to being apart of the first co-living experience in London and the coworking scene. All of these insights have driven me to write a book on how a community can help to power business with high innovation and productivity, within the research for this title and within my own business, I have been spending time within the Israeli tech startup community. In itself, this start-up city is a prime example of strong community focus, something which has been embedded in local society and stems from the foundations of the Kibbutzim movement.

For those of you who are new to this word, a Kibbutz is a collection of active social communities which are based in Israel, with many starting life off in the 1920’s to 1930’s they helped to create the foundation blocks of Israel. Kibbutz in translation means a collective, a group of people with shared values and vision. This way of living drove my curiosity forward to learn more, which is why I spent time discovering this unique way of life at Kibbutz Afikim. This is a site which is located in northern Israel with the mountainous peaks of Golan Heights and the valley surrounding Galilee in the distance and the border of Jordan only a short walk away.

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From entering the site, you can sense the community vibe. From walking into the dining room, we were introduced to a kibbutznik who chatted to us and explained a little more about what was going on. I travelled up to this site with a German friend as we were visiting her family at Afikim. It was only later on when I was asking questions on what makes a Kibbutz a Kibbutz? I found out that one of the key answers to this was the dining room. A social hub of the community where people come to eat, drink and chat and without this function, the kibbutz and its social meaning would disappear. A walk around Afikim amazed me, here I was in northern Israel but surrounded by the most beautiful plants and grounds, we were walking past the floral decor which entices your senses of smell while being engaged with this heavenly garden backdrop. Afikim, like with many Kibbutz started life off around agriculture. On this visit, we had a drive around the farmland of bananas, olives, avocado, and dates. The agricultural side to the Kibbutz was a traditional money earner for the community. However, most sites branched off into different directions from this. Afikim now has a successful dairy business (Afimilk) alongside mobility. It was the innovation of community life which enticed me to see a Kibbutz. I have a real passion to understand more about how a collective of people thinking together can create something special, and this Kibbutz site certainly didn’t let me down.

Not long after the land was bought to build this site in 1932, innovation was already starting to happen. A majority of the founding Kibbutzniks at Afikim came from Russia, and when setting up the community, they developed a successful Aqueduct system between Afikim and the adjacent Kibbutz locations to ensure water was piped into the social project. Not long after this, the Kibbutzniks were building and selling boxes to hold fruit and vegetables which were then adapted and supplied to the British Army during the 1940’s. After the war the transcultural community was growing and the Kibbutz (like with many at the time had increased in population and nationality). This made it an interesting social project with high ambition, and ideas came about which helped the Kibbutz to develop industry more. Paper and materials for furniture made from various plants including Ecapytus allowed the Kibbutz a new source of income. Although they didn’t have the right plants to grow initially, they brought them over from southern Africa; an idea from a French man and a French company to take them to the Kibbutz. Like with any business model, they hit a block with this idea; the kibbutzniks didn’t have the glue to stick the product together; however, this was nothing that a collective group of minds could not solve and the solution was right in front of them (literally). In the form of cows, they used the milk and dried it to create a glue and industry was booming.

The investment came from this and was put back into the community which allowed them to buy bigger machines, and through entrepreneurial mindsets, the remaining sectors of Afikim which are still running today formed. This includes Afiscooters, an idea which came from a Kibbutznik on this site to help his elderly mother travel around this vast space of land. Not only does Afimilk produce milk but they invented the milking machine which checks the amount and quality of the milk which is now sold globally. From chatting to a family of Kibbutzniks, you could see how proud they were of this sites technical background which has come from the ideas of residents. The ethos of Kibbutz life is to share, and if someone has a genius idea for the community, it is the whole community which will benefit from it. The success of these business ideas and a strong social bond on site are essential to the success of a Kibbutz and helped Afikim turnover 300m NIS last year!

Even though the Kibbutz is making good money and Kibbutznik numbers on the rise, it has not always been plain sailing in Kibbutz life. The 1980’s saw rocky waves in many Kibbutz sites in Israel as money from Kibbutz businesses were invested into outside projects, and that went with the global financial crisis. To top this, numbers were small and it was seen that this idyllic lifestyle was no longer fashionable. It was clear that the Kibbutz sites had to change ways! When they were originally developed, everything was shared. Even your clothes; what you put in the launderette would not be what you got out, and even your Childs name was decided as a community. This is no longer the modern way of kibbutz life, even the properties in Afikim were handed to the Kibbutzniks now rather than being kibbutz owned. And with all the stresses of modern life and loneliness, you can see why Kibbutz sites as with any co-living option are proving popular; Israel is already having inner city Kibbutz’s growing and another outer city kibbutz also turning into a business incubator.

Kibbutzniks have a good life with a great education system. Afikim has an onsite college with 2000 residents and a college to keep the elderly minds working with 800 students. Kibbutzniks also benefit from free medical care, high pensions alongside arts and cultural events which are all paid for out of the profit pot from the industry, and all this for a small membership fee. Although this is a modern life of a Kibbutz, it hasn’t changed from some fundamental social values that started these communities. However, some ethos changed to those back in 1932. The key starting theories of Kibbutz life back in the day were about the image of the new Jew, kibbutzniks wanted a more masculine image, and it was seen more about the new “Ivrit” or Hebrew rather than Jew as they wanted to distance themselves from the religion. Key foundation blocks of the community were also about being with nature and creating a democracy; this still exists today with an elected leader in the Kibbutz being in power for two years with some small sets of rules which Kibbutzniks need to follow to embrace community life.

 

kibbutz events
Events board for the community

 

It is important to understand that a Kibbutznik needs to contribute to the community in any way, many skills sharing and co-learning experiences happen within these sites, this is something which I believe is a crucial foundation to any community as it helps to develop and build up high trust and transparency. However, a life balance of community and privacy is needed and this is demonstrated as modern day Kibbutz homes now have a private kitchen alongside the sharing of the dining room hub.

When I visited this site, Afikim is celebrated its 93rd year of existence, something which is remarkable and shows you what can happen when you put a group of people together with a shared interest in wanting to create something. This could be a social or business related background, but it is amazing to see this site all these years later as a community which is a town, fully functional and self-sufficient in many ways.

So what about the future of the Kibbutz? From speaking to Kibbutzniks the future looks good with people wanting to belong to something, and many old members are now moving back into the sites with families for security, better quality of life, education and healthcare which are provided from the entrepreneurial wing. Some original kibbutz sites have changed direction, and are more of a town without the essential community functions such as the dining room. Locations such as Afikim have stayed as a Kibbutz but have adapted and are also helping to grow smaller private business within site, have a drive around Afkim and you will see carpentry workshops to retail shops. One thing is clear; people have chosen to come here as they want a social belonging whether they work inside or outside the site.

Three tips to think about before you start a business plan

Many people have ideas and thoughts on creating a business, but only a small percentage of those people go and turn their dreams into a reality. It’s those people that dare to be different, to disrupt the norm and change the world.

One of my favourite business quotes was expressed by Steve Jobs, “The people who are crazy enough to change the world, are the ones who do!” I enjoy this motivational message so much that I have added it to the back of my business card when people flip it over to read the extract they always smile. The road to building a startup has many twists and turns which are all exciting and if you believe that you can change the world in some way you won’t be put off by all the obstacles which fall in your path.

The first part of a building a business is to make sure that there is demand for your product or service together with researching what is already in the market and similar to what you are offering. This forms a large part of the market research piece within your business plan and an essential area for you to focus on before you go any further; it is better to scrap a plan or an idea earlier before costs start to spiral. I have laid out some fundamental tips for you to consider when reviewing what your business is going to be and the development of the plan of activities for the business.

Tip 1 – Competitive Analysis

I found that by splitting an A4 piece of paper into five sections containing the headings: the objective of the business, strengths, weaknesses, resources and what could be done differently helped me to review the competition. Once I had then gathered the information, I laid the documents out across the floor and analysed how my business could evolve on what is already in the market.

Tip 2 – Take time on the thought process of your business before you do the plan.

You can’t just write what your business is going to do as you write the plan, this takes time. You already had an idea and motivation before you analysed your competitors but now you need to think about other factors including service and price alongside how you will stand out. I found myself drawing thought bubbles and had notes everywhere for a few months before I then went on to create the business model.

Tip 3 – Seek advice, get a mentor
 
A mentor is an experienced person in the field that you need expertise in. The worst thing that you can do is to keep your business a secret in the fear that someone else is going to steal your idea. There are ample services out there which can support you. Virgin Startups connect you to a business centre for advice and business loans, another excellent service is through the government start-up loan scheme if you are based in the UK. Both services support you in building a strong business plan and help you with funds that you will need to help get your business off the ground. You may also want to propose to an experienced entrepreneur that they become a mentor, I feel this is an excellent way to move forward as they can give you valuable insight into different activities. This is something I have recently been doing with a small boutique sports fashion brand, and I feel that we have both learnt from each other through bi monthly meetings which have taken place.

A Review on Leadership

Autocratic Leadership is not a new concept; however, it’s becoming increasingly popular with new managers because it involves trust and develops ethics. Other new forms of leadership are being introduced which includes neuroscience which analyses how the brain responds to different situations and something a leader should consider when implementing any strategic change into the organisation.

It’s important to remember that while some people are natural leaders, others can be taught the skills, but it’s the style of leadership that has changed and keeps evolving. There are also many different theories leaders need to be aware of regarding direction and management techniques when implementing new approaches to the business, which will critically evaluate by reviewing:
• Creativity
• Innovation
• Strategic Change

I’m going to be looking into different leadership styles and what makes them successful alongside the qualities of what makes a good leader. Is it someone who looks at the behaviour of the team? Someone who likes to develop the individual or does it take someone with more a psychology approach such as neuroscience to understand the mental processes?

Different theories suggest that various types of leadership are more useful in different situations, but which is the right one to choose and can people be developed in leadership? Goleman (1995) has written about the importance of Emotional Intelligence  (EI) and how it plays a critical part in team development which managers and leaders need to take seriously. In his findings, he writes that a person’s emotional intelligence can be developed and can be more fortunate to team development instead of IQ. This could be argued, as many people comment that someone’s IQ could be increased with the appropriate learning and development to support the individual. However, Goleman states that by developing EI, it raises the performance of a person with motivation and self-awareness and it would influence different leadership styles which would become more visionary with coaching and pace-setting.

In agreement with Goleman’s theory is John Adair whose work in his action centred approach to leadership model suggests that the development of the individual is critical for a leader to focus in. However, a strong leader would also need to look at the elaboration of the team and achieving the task.

By reviewing this action centred model, John Adair suggests that by focusing on just one area will not accomplish the task and a leader would need to look at all three consistently. Action centred leadership suggests that motivation is at the core of a high-performance team and this is reflected in the direction style. Thoughts on this theory include; the leadership model having an impact on the motivation of the team and the development of a better wage also creating motivation.

Management Today (2014) recently published an article claiming that the UK’s poor productivity rate reflects the businesses which are directly paying their workforce the minimum wage. The report suggests a labour force should be paid fairly and it is up to the leaders of the organisation to avoid losing jobs if this happens. The report directs itself into the case study based on Kingsmill and demonstrates a contradiction because the bread business writes that as well as high wages the leaders need to ensure the productivity stays high through training and innovation which is linked to the action centred model to drive the best from team performance.

Building a team

Building and maintaining the team cannot be achieved unless the individual and the group are professionally developed. If a leader leaves one area of the overlap untouched, then the whole project wouldn’t become successful. This approach demonstrates a different way of working compared to previous management styles which might have suggested a more autocratic, controlled workforce.

Looking back, the 1990’s saw the shift from hierarchy to a flatter organisational structure. The Chartered Institute of Management developed a report which looks at the removal of domination and more coordination styles of leadership alongside the introduction of more team work and more empowerment to the individual, but does this happen in every workplace? No, in some work situations a more controlled environment needs to be considered such as a call centre where strict regulations and targets are in place.

Leadership in Travel

Harriet Green (former Thomas Cook CEO) compliments the removal of domination theory by stating in a recent interview that before her starting at the holiday giant, the board was run by typical male English and German businessmen who had no reflection and now there are three women sat on the board the leadership reflects the business. Green’s comments could come across as sexist. However, she is only making the point that she and her leaders were in tune with the operation of Thomas Cook, its employees, and the customers.

This report by Saunders comments that before being CEO at Thomas Cook, Green went after the leadership roles in her career that the average person striving for success didn’t want as she felt that in those roles, she could relate to the business more as a leader who helped her to develop. The dictatorship days have gone, and management in a 21st-century office need to be more aware of the social skillset required within the job. “Human skills help the leader to work more efficiently with subordinates, peers, and superiors to accomplish the organisation’s goals” Katz (1955).

Great Person Theories

Katz’ study that all these skills (human, technical and conceptual) need to be implemented for a leader to succeed, the study illustrates the skills of a leader are very different from the traits (which is what a leader is) this gives us the impression that skills can be taught. The key area that we are looking at in this study is that at all levels of management and leadership human qualities are essential and when you review his studies, it’s hard to understand why social skills would not be necessary.

One of the most common types of leadership is authentic which demonstrates that the leader needs to build trust, have ethics and self-awareness. These skills involve sociable skills and relate to the human skills that Katz introduced and would be the foundation to management leading a team with Adir’s action centred leadership model.

This is a very different approach to the first stages of leadership which included “Great Person Theories.” Upon researching this method, Potter (2014) suggests this style of leadership has lost significant popularity as it often followed the theme that the leader is always right. Referring to the previous research in this paper, it seems appropriate to say that some environments are more controlled whereas other workplaces need to be developed under great person theory style of leadership.

Motivation in business

Large companies like to use rewards to increase the productivity in a workplace, instead of offering “carrot” rewards to boost performance as a quick fix, other permanent rewards to constantly keep employees happy are introduced, schemes like this are often referred to as wellness programs. The past ten years have seen an increase in organisations using wellness plans. However, welfare programs are often seen as a nice extra and not a strategic imperative. Newer evidence now tells a different story.

Berry, Mirabito & Baun (2010) produced a report which became a published document in the Harvard Business Review which states that despite employees enjoying the rewards of a wellness program, it has helped to see a recovery in businesses production.

The initial report developed research on employees of Johnson & Johnson who claims that after the introduction of the wellness program, lost days had declined by 80% which led to the right employees staying with the company. The report makes out that a wellness plan is not just throwing carrots at employees to make them work, but instead to keep the workforce morale high at a consistent level.

The Trouble with Gold Stars

Many methods have been tested to suggest that rewards such as wellness programs do not always work, Sansone (2000) investigates that we need to look beyond rewards and focus more on intrinsic motivation. Her practices have led to her conclusion that when you give a person a reward for doing a task they always did, the job is not done to the same standard.

Previous work by A Kohn (1993) complimented Sansone’s theory; he wrote “Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s Praise and Other Bribes,” in this report he investigates the theory behind what we might call motivating people is de-motivating people. He uses an old story which progressed from an old man who receives abuse from school children as an example for his findings. In this story the man receives abuse each day from school children, until one day he tells them that if they came back tomorrow, he would give them £1, the next day he gives them 20p, and following day 1p – until the children don’t do it anymore because there is no more incentive.

This story suggests that by firstly incentivising the process and then gradually diminishing the rewards, what the child initially called fun was taken away from them by a monetary incentive. Kohn’s theory can be portrayed in a work environment where an organisation to start no financial incentives, and the team is producing quality work based on self-motivation. Once financial incentives are introduced quality can go down the enjoyment of the task could be lost.

Behaviourism

Kohn does a lot of investigation into “behaviourism” and the culture of asking people to do something for you to gain a reward, he suggests that a manager offering incentives is dehumanising and comments that “Those who wield rewards assume that people are like pets.”

The theories in Kohn’s work are well researched and credible, his work is agreeable in some aspects, particularly when the author researches and writes about alternative methods of incentives which develop from ideas on intrinsic motivation. This is self-motivation and how people will do the job regardless of any excuse. I feel that this is a very different view to Clark (2013) who suggests that financial incentives can increase performance by 20%. What Clark fails to write about is the quantity of workload will increase, but this may affect the quality and the overall motivation of the team.

Manipulation is how Kohn summarises what managers do when they reward staff by incentives and do not offer a work space of intrinsic motivation. This comment is arguable and subject to the work conditions of the job. More challenging places of work need to become a more motivated place, and therefore a manager would need to introduce more incentives into the workspace to increase the productivity and motivation of the workforce. Dickinson (2001) writes a different report to Kohn’s findings in the Experiential Economics journal on work team motivation; he suggests that without any incentive it gives the potential for team members to free ride and limits the team output. The paper goes on to review a carrot (positive) and stick (negative) approach to incentives in which they oversaw an experiment based in a laboratory environment where monetary prizes became a motivational tool to high performers, and monetary fines were handed out to low performers.

Penalising low performers is something that completely contradicts the work of Kohn who believes that by giving people a task they will achieve it by wanting the challenge of completion. Arguably Kohn’s work is subject to a particular kind of guy, Dickenson’s experiment review suggests that the carrot and stick effect increased efficiency levels by 10-28%. Just like Clark’s report, what the results do not show is the motivation of the employee’s during the task, the quality of work that they produced and if this was to take place in a work place environment, how would morale and turnover of staff be affected.

Can employees be more productive?

Rewarding employees is not always a negative thing. Bolch, (1997) reviews the HR policies of Nucor Corp. The report summarises that this business rewards its team with incentive plans which are transparent. Unlike most companies, even entry level staff are aware of the co workers bonus which would often imply conflict, however, the report concludes that as the business has a strong philosophy on team work, it increases the morale of the production staff.

Many people would state that Dickinson’s research is being unofficial, but by looking at further research into the motivation of employee’s. Spitzer (1995) conducted a survey on work force motivation to which his finding suggested: “50% of workers do the bare minimum to avoid employment termination while more than 80% say they could work much harder.” Introducing higher rewards and making them more transparent like Boch’s findings would create more motivation without having to add punishment.