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Building Social Communities - Should be as Easy as 1, 2, 3

My last post was about getting people to start changing work practices away from the unproductive use of email for sending documents, towards driving users towards centrally storing and collaborating on the actual knowledge record.
With studies from McKinsey Consulting Group indicating in 2012 that 29% of emails had attachments, this single step goes a long way towards moving people beyond email, towards more productive forms of collaboration.
Yet collaboration on document creation is but one aspect of social collaboration. As many others can attest to, Communities of Interest provide exceptional Return on Investment through facilitating the dissemination of expertise, building a spirit of collaboration and developing the “esprit de corps” many enterprises strive for.
Numerous articles, books and workshops have been developed on the subject of Communities, how to develop them, manage and sustain them, encompassing gamification technologies, crowdsourcing capabilities and numerous other technologies.
However, identifying and fostering communities within a corporation can be as easy as 1, 2, 3.
Step 1 – Analyze Existing internal email Patterns
Yes, again back to email as the basis for identification of where communities, not only make the best sense, but where they will have the greatest chance of acceptance and take-up by people. Analysis of unstructured data may not be something that immediately springs to mind but it is very surprising what results can be found. Consider the end result of analyzing your internal email communication patterns obtained through your mail journals. Extract the information on who is sending emails to who look at the frequency and represent the outcome graphically.
The following example, obtained through Trustsphere (www.trustsphere.com), is indicative of what can be discovered. Of particular interest are those groups of individuals in the circles at the top right hand side of the illustration.

These are people regularly communicating with each other via email, with the size of the ‘circle’ representing the size of the group. 
What better place to start with an online community and begin to evolve people beyond email towards more productive ways of collaboration.
Step 2 – Introduce key groups to the concept of communities of practice
Step 3 – Monitor use, identify best practices and promote those adopting productive change as heroes
(I will spend more time in later posts on my thoughts on #2 and #3)
As I said, easy as 1, 2 & 3.
But why stop there. 
Examining email communication patterns with external users as well will highlight patterns of email communication that would also benefit from Communities of practice.
Remember my focus. 
Email is a great tool, but it is not collaboration. Our focus should therefore be upon looking at evolving beyond email towards more productive form of collaboration, not just outsourcing the problem to the cloud.


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