WOL for Teams didn’t work, but this will

You might call it “WOL for Shared Purpose” or “WOL for Communities.” I like “WOL for Passion.” There’s no need for special materials or training. You can use the free WOL Circle Guides and start now. 

The idea is a result of a failed experiment with WOL for Teams. By applying what we learned, and making some small adjustments to Circles, I think we can help a wide range of communities and causes.

Why WOL for Teams failed

WOL for Teams, as you may have guessed from the name, is a WOL Circle in which the goal and relationship list are shared by everyone in the group, and so the method emphasizes the group over the individual. A modified set of Circle Guides includes other adaptations that flow from that. For example, the goals we suggested in Week 1 are different.

  • Raise awareness about what we do
  • Get feedback from stakeholders
  • Find and learn from others who do related work

Some of the exercises were different too. You would work on the team’s online presence instead of your own. The “Letter from Your Future Self” exercise became “The President’s Award” where you speak about how your team accomplished its goal. And so on.

In the pilot, two kinds of challenges led to us deeming it a failure. The first was procedural. Having a single relationship list in the group made it unclear who was supposed to do what with each person on the list. Would the whole team suddenly offer attention and appreciation to someone? That seemed odd. (The word “stalking” was used.) Also, some teams were larger, making the meetings hard to manage.

More insidious was that we explicitly undermined one of the most important elements of WOL: intrinsic motivation. While some people in the pilot may have truly cared about their team’s goal, it wasn’t enough for most people to spark their motivation to do things differently. The Circle meeting began to feel like yet another team meeting and, as a result, most pilot members stopped showing up.

WOL for Passion

WOL for Passion is subtly different. As in WOL Circles, you're still in a group of 4 - 5 people, and each individual still chooses an individual goal they care about. However, Circles are formed based on goals that are related. By grouping people based on the goal they choose, we preserve each member’s intrinsic motivation while creating possibilities for more interaction within the Circle.

The thematic goals can be anything one truly cares about. Maybe you're passionate about a work topic like autonomous vehicles or cryptocurrencies or the Internet of Things. Or maybe you care deeply about more general topics like innovation or diversity, or education or the environment. Whatever it is, you're likely to find people who share your interests in related online communities inside and outside your company. WOL for Passion would give you all a simple and structured way to contribute and connect.

Because your goals are related, you'll be able to share more resources within your Circle. And as more Circles form related to a given theme, resources could be curated within communities of practice. “Here’s a list of people related to the topic and useful resources. Here’s a sample Contribution Checklist.” All of that would enable WOL for Passion members to make progress more quickly.

In short, WOL for Passion accelerates connecting people and knowledge around a topic, tapping into each individual's intrinsic motivation to do so.

An example in Nebraska

I've been thinking about this idea since I first heard the results of the WOL for Teams pilot over a year ago. Recently, I saw a tweet from John Porter - aka the Urban Agriculture Guru - that pushed me to do something. John had been in a WOL Circle and found it helpful for developing and growing his business and personal relationships. He also cares deeply about urban agriculture and the many benefits of consuming locally-produced food. So he wanted to see if he could use WOL to connect urban food producers with other parts of the food eco-system.

“Our local food system is in its beginning phases here in Omaha, and I really think I can be a catalyst in helping connect the dots between producers and from producers to consumers, retailers, etc.  I’d love to build an informal network of producers so that I can better support this growth, and I think WOL would be a good tool to do this.”

John said there were already meet-ups, Facebook pages, and other efforts to connect people, but that nothing so far had formed a sense of community. 

“We post announcements - but nobody is contributing. I want to use WOL to build purpose for the community. I want to be able to build collaborations between them.”

So I asked John if he would be willing to do an experiment. He would form a few Circles of people with goals related to his, and I would help him along the way. He agreed.

What are you passionate about?

The exercises in Week 11 of the Circle Guides (“Imagine the possibilities”) are about this kind of community building. “As you aim higher, your purpose is no longer about you and what you alone might accomplish but what your tribe will accomplish together.” WOL for Passion builds on this, helping you find people who care about what you care about, build deep relationships with them, and connect and equip them to make progress towards related goals.

What about you? Is there something you care so much about that you want to create connections and possibilities related to it? Try your own experiment by forming WOL Circles of people with related goals. Experience what kind of a difference that can make. I'll be glad to help you, too.

An example of community-building: Nebraska local foods 

An example of community-building: Nebraska local foods