Having diverse voices able to safely express their input and for it be received respectfully is vital to the functioning of teams, groups and communities – including those online and in science. This is a special instalment of the URLs of wisdom in which I round up some new and some not-so-new links that explore silencing, story and speaking up. If you have additional reading material on these topics to recommend, please add it as a comment.
Warning: Contains The Last Jedi spoilers!
Last weekend I went to see the latest Star Wars installment, The Last Jedi, and found myself noting frequently how many community-related themes were threaded throughout the movie. Here are 5 community take-aways from the film.
1. Get to know – and work with – your biggest advocates
As any community manager knows, your community is made up of members with different personalities and activity levels. Your job is to create and maintain a space where they can work constructively together towards a common vision.
There’s been much criticism of Poe in The Last Jedi – the headstrong hero who’s so passionate about fighting for the rebellion that he’s prepared to be increasingly rash in his actions, whatever the cost. But most facilitators of well-established communities will recognise at least one Poe in their midst – the regular contributor who reliably dives in to every single one of the discussion threads, or who happily tells you and anyone else on the Internet who’ll listen how you’ve ruined everything with your latest product update/marketing campaign/editorial the minute it disappoints him.
I’m making a habit of spending Thanksgiving (mostly) away from my laptop and out exploring art. This year, I went along to the Hirschhorn modern art museum where I enjoyed the new “What absence is made of” exhibition – a series of pieces exploring themes including identity, loss and the impact of technology.
My favourite piece was an interactive exhibit by Ann Hamilton called “at hand” where a machine drops a single sheet of blank paper from the ceiling at random intervals. The paper floats to the floor, joining a growing pile of sheets, resulting in an empty autumnal scene devoid of colour. Continue reading
Next week I’m taking part in a panel discussion about the role of trust in communities at the Community Roundtable’s annual CRConnect event. Ahead of that I wanted to share a few reflections about trust.
Trust and vulnerability come hand in hand
Trust is ultimately about a willingness to make our vulnerability visible to another – and to believe that they won’t take that show of vulnerability and abuse it to hurt us. Vulnerability can take many forms from revealing a secret fear to a friend, to sharing key insights with a collaborator or admitting to a supervisor that we need more support.
The moment at which we take the plunge and share our vulnerability is always transitional – the next steps for the relationship hang in the balance until we receive a response from the person we’re sharing with. If our revelation is met with reassurance, care, and appropriate respect then we’re likely to share again and the relationship will continue to develop. Break the boundaries of the tentative formation of a safe space and the relationship may be damaged temporarily or permanently, depending on the scale of the breach.
In a series of 3 posts, I’m sharing some books that I’ve found useful on the topics of community management, online interactions, and leadership and team culture. In this post, I recommend 5 books that discuss being an effective leader and creating a collaborative, open culture of learning within your organisation.
1. “The first 90 days” by Michael Watkins
This is really a book about change management – how to make a positive impact in the first 90 days in a new management level role. Given that most employees change their role in some way every couple of years – whether that’s acquiring new direct reports, additional projects or moving elsewhere – effectively managing change is key to a successful career.
Social intelligence is the ability to navigate complex social relationships and environments – something key to being a successful community manager or facilitator. However, on reading recently about some of the components of social intelligence proposed by Dan Goleman it struck me how poorly we optimise for many of them on social media.
Goleman proposes that there are two broad categories of skills that comprise social intelligence – those of social awareness and those of social facility. Social awareness includes paying attention to others so that we develop empathy, attunement and cognition, whereas social facility is about how we regulate our own interactions with others – including how we present ourselves and exert influence.
Could some of the problems that we’re seeing with anti-social behaviour online be attributed to two related issues? 1) Platforms being better optimised for social facility traits and 2) Technical limitations that seriously restrict social awareness online. I unpack these ideas in this post.
Recently I finished reading “Whiplash – how to survive our faster future” by Joi Ito, Director of MIT Media Lab and Jeff Howe – who coined the phrase crowd-sourcing. Media Lab has a reputation for innovative, highly experimental projects that push at the boundaries between art, technology, learning and society. “Whiplash” discusses 9 core principles that operate at Media Lab – and why they might be relevant more broadly where innovation is found.