How To Build A Community in Your Business

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Communities form in many ways, more commonly through a social setting or a group of people who are coming together with a shared goal or vision. The power of a community can be highly productive and when you think about it, all good things come out of a community… so why can’t communities be built in businesses?

When I first started my research within communities in business, I was looking at the role of the community and how it can power innovation and productivity. The idea of building something which can become so powerful, it would help the organisation to develop greater results was always a going to be a key criterion to my work. I defined this through my community circle model which highlights how a successful community is strongly developed through four foundation blocks of social capital, creative thinking, motivation and a sharing economy. It was later on, whilst looking at building a community of users within my online business that I focused on the fifth foundation of ownership.

When you examine each section of the community circle, they are stand out as a single block yet all work together to support each function.

Social Capital

This is when social networks have meaning, a true community leader is someone who can help people to connect and build up a culture which supports project work and people working outside of their silos and creating higher engagement.

Creative Thinking

This foundation block can trigger greater social capital and some from teams working together to solve a problem. Creative thinking should form how you want to define your community and be the foundation of the change management process. In fact, the whole culture should be involved with the changes through creative thinking processes.

Motivation

People need to have a purpose, understanding their motivation is going to be key and why they are wanting to develop as an individual or a group. Daniel Pink was fundamental in my research to which he states that people are driven by their autonomy, mastery and purpose. When you analyse this, people want to be good at something and they want to have a purpose, the same way a community in a social setting works; It’s now time to drive this philosophy into the workplace.

Sharing Economy

So this word is thrown around a lot in modern day life, however, the sharing economy in the community leads to the sharing of skills and knowledge. You could say that if you have high sharing economy then this leads into greater social capital, you can see why these four foundation blocks of community building play a key role in the development of the organisation’s culture and the sharing economy needs to work to drive more ideas and innovation.

Ownership

Now I’m building communities of active users, ownership plays a key role in the model. A consumer will take active pride when they feel that they own something; this is often achieved through crowdfunding and giving away equity. Equally, if the community in the business feel they own something, they will take a more active lead. I’m not talking about giving away shares but through the development of values and the mission. You can’t expect the management to run a community culture and people to stick to it, this will become nothing more than a poster which is stuck on the wall with no one paying attention. The community members need to actively build and develop it from the start.

And the rest? 

The foundation blocks are key to developing the right community. However, you need to have the right leadership. Remember that when you are developing this project, the leader needs to take an active role to make sure the four elements are all working. After a while, the leader should be taking that step back and watching the seeds grow but still be involved when needed as the role will be to ensure that all the different blocks are still working; when one stops, the community can fall and the high investment of time will be pointless. The right leadership skills will come from someone who is perceptive and is able to show strategic thinking and emotional intelligence. I always say a key role in developing a community in the workplace is through transcultural leadership, this type of leader will have the ability to view different perspectives and develop people’s mindsets by understanding the power of multiculturalism.

Soft skills such as transcultural leadership and emotional intelligence to connecting people and strategic thinking are key skills which are going to forge the community circle together. Not only are they fine ways of making the community work, but also key skills which are needed more than ever in the future of work.

You can order my book on this subject on Amazon Here

 

The Need for Co-Learning in the Workplace

The need for peer to peer or co-learning is needed more than ever in places of work. Current training and development practices are just not reliable or capable on their own; this may sound odd coming from someone with a training based business!

When a group of people are learning from each other, critical advances happen in the work quality alongside the trust and transparency which then grows. Something that would not occur in a traditional learning and development format. Alongside this, the engagement and motivation levels increase. Not just in the person who is now absorbing a wealth of new information, but also through the member delivering the knowledge; the person is being used to their advantage, and that person is now feeling a sense of responsibility through empowerment.

Co-learning is not a new thing in business, people have always learnt from each other in the office. This has usually been to share best practice and specific skills which has been related to a task. However, the development of further co-learning exercises regarding skills that team members have developed from outside the workplace and not directly linked to the functions in the place of work could help increase the innovation and productivity which powers the business forward.

As a leader, you may never have asked your team members what other skills and areas of strength they are developing in their own time. It has never been business related, therefore, why would you? However, those coding skills, language skills, creative skills could be turned into transferable skills or new ways in developing a process. And what better person to deliver it, other than the team member themselves.

The sharing of knowledge and learning is a great asset, and I believe the development of co-learning opportunities in the workplace, alongside other sharing economy features, will help any leader to then get the best from the team and the task at hand.

Despite many developments in making formal training more interactive, it doesn’t meet the needs of many styles of learning. Kinaesthetic learning in particular, and, although the co-learning experience can be as equally as visual or auditory, there is a certain higher level of understanding through a personal approach that is engaging and captivating.

The transferring of skills in a workplace can be easy as getting team members to write down what they feel comfortable with and getting them to complete their skill swaps with others. Therefore, eliminating the management levels and allowing employees to feel trusted in a task which will enable them to grow with the business, thus, increasing the empowerment, intrinsic and self-development levels.

When I have helped to put this process into existing businesses, I have often advised the leaders that the content of what is learnt may seem irrelevant to the job. However, this is not a significant concern as the real power of co-learning comes from the new connections which start to form. A clear indication that strong social capital is developing, this is an essential ingredient if the business is then seeking higher innovation and productivity through team members extending internal connections which have meaning.

My YouTube video on Co-Learning

Creative Leadership and Community Building

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This blog is audio, check out the 30-minute recording which covers many key areas including:

Leadership 

Culture 

Community Building 

Listen here:

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.