3 simple tips for setting up online communities

On Wednesday I spoke at the World Of Learning 2011 conference in the session on Harnessing the potential of social learning.  My message was the same as usual (and you can see my presentation here) that social learning is not about forcing people to participate in online learning communities as part of formal training, but about encouraging and supporting teams to build their own group spaces to support one another more informally in the workflow

Nancy Ouma, from the VSO was on the platform with me and she showed how such social learning approaches had grown organically outside of mandated online courses – in Facebook and LinkedIn. She explained that at first she had been very wary of these groups, but was now so convinced of their value for volunteers, that she wanted to support more initiatives of this kind.

Our message was the same, L&D needs to let go and encourage and support teams to set up their own groups.

After our session, we had a few questions about setting up such communities.  The following three questions I think are worth repeating here – as indeed our united response.

Q1 – Where do I set up a community?  Should it be on Facebook?
A1 – Ask the team!  Are they all FB members and happy to communicate in a group there, or would they prefer another place?  Work with them to find the best place to help them set up their group.

Q2 – What rules should I put in place for use of the group?
A2 – Ask the team!  Don’t impose your own rules on them, but encourage them to define their own ground rules for participation.  Help them to think through some of the issues they might want to consider.

Q3 – How should I manage the group?
A3 – Ask the team!  How do they want you to be involved? Would they like you to facilitate conversations or would they prefer to do it all themselves – and perhaps you not even be part of the group.  Respect their wishes and keep out of the group, if that is what they want.

The questioner involved was honest enough to say he felt very uncomfortable about relinquishing control, and I am sure that many others felt the same too. But we stressed the importance of letting go, and I repeated Dan Pink’s words from my presentation: “Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement“. We explained this would likely prove to be a far more successful approach than imposing a community on the team.  In other words the group needs to “own” its own community.

I would be very interested to hear of other similar instances where people have encouraged and supported social approaches rather than forced and mandated them.

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Jane Hart

Founder at C4LPT
Jane Hart is an independent workplace learning advisor, writer and international speaker, and is the Founder of the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies. She focuses on helping organisations with Modern Workplace Learning and individuals with Modern Professional Learning workshops. Find out more about Jane at JaneHart.com.

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2 thoughts on “3 simple tips for setting up online communities

  1. Dan Steer

    Charlene Li’s book “Open Leadership” was a nice read about the problem or control/freedom with regard to SoMe and online communities

  2. Pingback: Internet Time Blog : Best of working smarter for September 2011

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