7 ways an industry community can help you and your firm

Do you really need another network? For those focused on making work better, there are already many networks and channels to choose from. (For me, in addition to a small group of people I know well, I rely on the Social Business Council, the Jive Community, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and my firm’s social collaboration platform.)

Yet, last week, we started a new industry network. What could I possibly get there that I can't get elsewhere?

What I need

While I have plenty of networks, I need more than just connections. I need help - and more help than I’m getting currently. I need to accelerate my learning so I can make work better at my firm - more efficient, more effective, more fulfilling. And I need to do all of it more quickly.

There are 7 ways I’m expecting our new industry network will help me. I experienced 3 of them in our first meeting.

  • Use cases: Learning about other problems firms are solving - e.g., extending their communities to include partners or consolidating their entire intranet onto their collaboration platform - will broaden my sense of what’s possible.
  • Compliance, legal, HR: Sharing precedents - e.g., the handling of alumni data - will make it much easier to change opinions at my own firm.
  • Adoption: Hearing about creative approaches at other firms - like making the collaboration platform subsume the corporate directory - will help me re-think how we promote our platform.

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be looking for yet more help via our shared online space, working group meetings, and future symposia.

  • Policies: knowing what other employees can or can’t do and how that’s communicated.
  • Technology: learning how to deal with everything from basic product implementations to integration and customization.
  • Suppliers: learning how we might act as a group to specify requirements for, say, on-premises implementations, support for Ethical Wall requirements, and even applications to save money.
  • Talent: connecting good individuals and vendors with good opportunities.

Sharing this kind of information doesn't fit neatly into 140 characters or email. This kind of learning requires richer, in-depth discussions, documents, and other forms of knowledge you can build on. This is one of the benefits of having our new community use a comprehensive collaboration platform.

And there’s another, even more important thing we’ll need.

What’s been missing so far

To realize all of this potential, the key thing we’ll need is trust.  As much as the new community members want value from participating, they won’t contribute unless they know they’re safe and have control over their content.

It’s a difficult thing to achieve. Trust is personal and human. It’s earned over time. It involves shared goals and actions more than policies. In my own networks, without trusted relationships, the sharing is shallow.

The closest I’ve come to experiencing a trusted network was in the Social Business Council managed by Susan Scrupski. She was constantly contributing, brokering relationships, curating knowledge, and tending to the needs of members. I trusted Susan (and still do) and met some great people via the Council. But as many new members joined from a wide range of different firms with different problems, I found we couldn't do much in-depth work toward shared goals.

So that’s why I need another network, organized specifically for my industry. To make meaningful progress towards changing my big, regulated firm, I need to do more than swap stories and tactics. I need to work closely with people I trust on specific problems we share. And I need to keep working with them until we solve those problems.

Together, we can make work better, faster.