“There’s only our hair’s breadth between us, obscure as we are”
“Community” – a word almost as prevalent in the age of social business (granted, “age” may be a little generous) as the spiritually bankrupt “collaboration”. Like collaboration, it is only ever seen (in the parlance of 1066 and All That) as a “good thing”. One risks a punishment befitting a heretic for daring to question its validity (perhaps a new meaning for another vacuous word, “stakeholder”). While that in itself sounds like a challenge too good to pass up, there is a serious point. Like most paradigms for which the universe gets out the bunting and streamers, it has a problematic side that has been exacerbated by social technologies.
It may be like throwing a glass candle grenade, but consider that communities may just…..
- Reinforce a siege mentality – no-one understands us, it’s us against the world, if only you knew how tough our job was…
- Limit learning and development through the exclusion – whether intended or not, or through the creation of barriers that discourage others from interacting – of other views and perspectives on similar issues faced – which is why most professional conferences are generally appalling
- Create and reinforce petty prejudice – whether an antipathy towards another discipline or profession, or a customer group – or heaven forbid customers (or outsiders, as customers are seen) in general
- Make it just too difficult to break in, even when in possession of credentials the group would approve of, by being intimidating, and by seeming to have reached a natural capacity
- Become tedious, pursuing the same issues though ever decreasing circles, never getting close to a conclusion – take “employee engagement” for example
- Factionalise, as small breakaway cliques form that grumble about the “centre” being too conservative or rational and wanting to shake it all up a bit by doing something that is apparently different but is actually the same
- Become “managed”, because someone somewhere thinks it needs managing, and thereby become the sort of institution in opposition to which the community was established in the first place
- Implode – as Nietzsche stated, “all great things destroy themselves from within”
It has been my contention for some time that the era of protectionist professional organisations is passed, that they will fall ever more behind developments in their own field and in wider business for many of the reasons above.
The opportunity presented by social technologies is to break down barriers, create wider and less logical connections, build relationships across boundaries and on multiple levels, to take our connectivity in directions that face to face communication has not the time or scope to achieve. We need to take care not to use it to simply reinforce the worst habits of conventional interaction.
This in no way means we stop working together, rather it means we work together in a wider, more open, less factious way. We need to face outwards, not in. It’s time to take off the badge. There is only one community.