If we accept that the innovation race will be won by a team rather than a lone individual, the next question is: how does that team need to operate?
In We-Think, Charles Leadbeater provides insights into the framework that an innovation team must set up and share. Although Leadbeater focuses on online communities, the success factors he highlights apply whether the community meets online or in a more old-fashion way.
As a matter of fact, Leadbeater got numerous insights from researching communities that were definitely not online, such as the Levellers, a political movement in 17th Century England and the mining industry in the 19th Century.
The success factors are:
- People – Core team & Contributors
- Processes – Connect & Collaborate
- Purpose – Co-Creation
PEOPLE. Communities start with a gift of knowledge provided by someone. A Core Team has to be working harder than anyone else to create a kernel that is solid but unfinished and open to improvement, so that others don’t have to start with a blank sheet. In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S. Kuhn would refer to such a kernel as a new scientific paradigm, a reference frame that is both compelling enough and unfinished enough to motivate the mass of scientists to work tirelessly at refining and improving it. The community will grow around the core if others, in much larger numbers, are prepared to contribute, which they will only do if they feel the urge to ‘give something back’ and get a sense that their contributions are somehow recognised and valued. Giving something back pre-supposes that they have found something of value in the first place, which is usually the kernel that the core team has created and continues to enrich. Recognition typically comes in the form of a social structure in which contributors can climb some sort of status ladder in proportion of the quantity/quality of their contributions. The rule of thumb of community participation is 90/9/1 : 90% lurkers, 9% occasional contributors, 1% regular contributors. The core team will have to devise a recognition system for the 9% occasional and 1% regular Contributors.
PROCESSES. Diversity is a natural feature of online communities thanks to the broad and borderless access that online technology enables. However, diversity amounts to nothing if there is not a structure that enables various contributors to Connect and Collaborate. And the mass of contributions counts for little unless together they create something ordered and complex. An online encyclopedia is not a random mass of articles; it is a structured account of knowledge. For an online community to grow, the core team will have to create a structure that allows contributors to connect and assemble their contributions like lego bricks, as opposed to dumping them on a pile.
PURPOSE. Finally, for the assembling of lego bricks to result in something that contributors value and feel compelled to continue enrich, there’s got to be a common goal, a sense of shared purpose. That is why it is so essential to articulate the innovation challenges that the core team and its wider community of contributors set out to address.
Yann Cramer is an innovation learner, practitioner, sharer, teacher. He’s lived in France, Belgium and the UK, he’s travelled six continents to create development opportunities with customers or suppliers, and run workshops on R&D and Marketing. He writes on www.innovToday.com and on twitter @innovToday.