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Community of Practice Leadership Publications October 19, 2007

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John Smith, Theodora Fitzsimmons and I were talking today about publications that are available on the subject of Community leadership as our desire is to share our findings so that innovation and learning occur. 

We are in the midst of now deciding where to focus this work, how it will evolve and outcomes we desire.   We welcome your comments on our blog.


Slides from our workshop October 19, 2007

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We put togeher some slides that we thought would be helpful to guide the conversation during our June 2007 Workshop at MSU, as several attendees requested copies, so enjoy: 


Join CPsquare members and friends for a chat and drink June 19, 2007

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on Thursday, June 28, 2007 from 5:30 to 7:00 pm

a no-host bar at Beggars Banquet:
Near Cowles House, Michigan State University Campus,
East Lansing, Michigan, USA

Meet participants in the
Communities and Technologies 2007 conference
( https://ebusiness.tc.msu.edu/cct2007/ )
CPsquare members, com-prac participants and others …

Please join us if you can!

Building CoPs as a profession thoughts from Naava Frank May 24, 2007

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Martin, Great comments. I think one needs real political savvy and some coaching skills as well — for the one on one interactions – but maybe that is more my style or my specific communities – interesting to speculate. I too have been trying to build this as a ‘profession.’ I tell people there is a set of skills needed to do this well that can impact the quality of the results you get and I show them through conversations with them that there are other ‘options’ or techniques they had not considered. There are common mistakes and blind spots and maybe we can collectively identify them. E.g. “I can’t get people to use the listserv” or “people are not coming to meetings” that signal deeper fundamental issues in the way they are running the community. Usually they are not building distributed leadership are not using emergent design, are doing “for” instead “with” etc. Sorry I cannot see you in Setbul but let us know what happens.

Naava Naava Frank, Founder, Knowledge Communities


Collaborative leaders seek coaching May 24, 2007

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A recent summary of our study has provoked some very insightful feedback from: martin.roulleaux-dugage@schneider-electric.com

“People don’t accept to be coached unless they are convinced that they need a coach, which suggests a strong desire to be a better collaborative leader. The problem is that CoP leaders – at least in my company – do not feel they actually need one. They either think that they have their community “under control”, or they believe that others -typically the managers- are responsible for the mishaps of their community. Community-building is not really considered as a professional practice that would require ongoing coaching or mentoring. And to be honest, I have doubts myself.”

“However, there are some key moments in the life of a community of practice when the core group is very likely to interact with some outside expert before making decisions. For example:

  • Designing the community
  • Choosing a collaborative tool
  • Organizing a community seminar
  • Designing the community taxonomy

    To me, these are critical “moments of truth” where real collaborative expertise is needed and outside help is asked for. But if the organization’s management does not acknowledge this, community leaders will typically consider the advantage of obtaining good advice against the drawback of becoming too visible as a community within the organization. Most often, they will not ask for help.

    Some day, top managers will expect so much from their communities that they will crave for specialized coaches and consultants to help them. This is already taking place in some great global communities of practice. The Autodesk User Group ( http://www.augi.com/home/ ) for example regularly uses the coaching services (among other consulting services) of Solidvapor ( http://www.solidvapor.com/ ). But it seems to me that we still have a few years to go before this practice becomes mainstream. In the meantime, we are still merely evangelizing managers on the basics of CoPs.

    I have been struggling with the issue of how to market those “community leadership” services for the last four years. To be honest, I still haven’t found a viable business model either. But I am quite certain that it will require three fundamental domains of expertise:

    1. Collaborative working methods (conferencing, web conferencing, moderation, facilitation, peer assists, open space, marketplaces, brainstorming etc. etc.) – both F2F and virtual.
    2. Collaboration technologies (blogs, wikis, social networking, etc…. but perhaps more importantly interop standards and APIs: tagging, taxonomies, metadata, XML, ….)
    3. Communication (Attention-grabing techniques of the media and entertainment industries)

    The problem is that you need high talent to master those three domains and very few companies do (e.g. http://www.headshift.com ), whereas very few communities of practice can afford the luxury of outside consultants. One way out of this dilemma is to adopt the business model of media industries, and manage intellectual property rights instead of coaching fees. This is the current path I am exploring.”

    Thoughts from the founder of www.KnowledgeCommunities.org May 18, 2007

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    I loved the call on Thursday, really provoked some good thinking. I almost want to write down some of the hypotheses we are testing and begin to spell them out e.g.

    o dangers of funded communities in general vs. characteristics of sponsors vs. strategies for working with sponsors.
    o red flags around leadership transitions in organizations with communities — need to really work on this one, can awareness and pro-activity help?
    o Coaching vs. mentoring vs. peer to peer conversations, how do we use these terms and when are they most likely to be appropriate e.g. (e.g. working full time in the vs. running one community).
    o not good to “start” with meta cop as a strategy but yet it’s a powerful tool – need to unpack that.
    o What role does practice have in all of the above, are there techniques, skills, tips, tendencies that protect against the dangers noted above?

    Naava Frank, Founder
    Knowledge Communities

    How learning, meaning, and identity changed at the APA May 18, 2007

    Posted by John David Smith in Uncategorized.
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    Yesterday we invited all of the people we’ve interviewed in our coaching study to meet for a conference call to talk about what we’d learned from them about community leadership and coaching. As a broadcast of our “findings” it wasn’t too successful because we didn’t even get through our slide set, much less get much feedback. But as a kind of community call where we got down to an important discussion about learning and leadership it was great! I hope to more details soon. One of the people who showed up on the call was Matthew Simpson, who I met at the Coconut Grove CoP conference in 1999 and has been working at IBM helping communities function, stay connected, and stay visible all along. Hearing Matthew talk about his work always reminds me that insuring that communities are able to surprise us and invigorate our practice depends on a kind of persistence and longevity that he himself exemplifies.

    As a surprising aside, Matthew mentioned a story he’d heard recently on the radio and he circulated the URL for it. It has a lot of relevance to professional associations and personal connections from a communities of practice perspective. In “81 Words” Alix Spiegel tells a story about her grandfather and his accomplishments. Gradually it becomes clear that it’s also the story of how the American Psychiatric Association decided in 1973 that homosexuality was no longer a mental illness. Listen to it here. (It was broadcast on “This American Life” on May 11, 2007 — a replay of the original broadcast from 2002.) From a CoP perspective, it’s interesting to see how the judgments (or “knowledge”) of a learned society like the APA was actually reversed, what events and conversations played a role, and just how personal it all was. The story has it all: learning, meaning and identity. And they all change.

    Thoughts from Jen Hunter at: www.thelearningcatalyst.com May 18, 2007

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    It was great to see the interesting synthesis the John, Lauren and Theadora have developed from the interview process… what a wonderful conversation to be stimulating!  Well done!  (do you guys know the Impact Alliance http://www.impactalliance.org ?  It is  growing meta-community supported by PACT in Washington, and the focus is on capacity development specifically for those dedicated to International Development – and seems like this conversation is central to capacity development in general.  Just a thought!  Jeff Kwaterski leads the effort to grow and evolve the Impact Alliance – he’s amazing and has a real vision for taking things forward in a meaningful and valable way! YEAH!Okay, that was an aside – here is the reason I am posting: Yesterday I mentioned a book called Inspire! What Great Leaders Do by Lance Secretan (a Canadian!) (and then Matt mentioned another one that sounded interesting too and we also talked a little about De Bono’s work – but here is the link to Lance’s book… which is cool!  Lance has worked in this field for years and his site is neat as well www.secretan.com


    I think the work of Secretan, Greenleaf www.greenleaf.org , Pegasus Communications www.pegasuscom.com, Berkana www.berkana.org are all related to the work of building collective capacity to explore and create new futures TOGETHER! I wonder if you asked coaches where they get their juice – what you would find?  What reading, learning, exploring do great coaches do to keep passionate and engaged?  I can’t remember if you asked this…something like “in the past two years – share a few experiences that have opened up new possibilities for you?”

    OTO versus OTM relationships May 17, 2007

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    There seems to be important distinctions for the CoP Leadership practice of their own development.  CoP Leaders often seek out conferences, read books and meet in forums to learn and/or further their craft.  However, there is often a missing link of an individual one on one relationships that allow for deeper commitment and deep work on behavior change.  As individuals we have assumptions, blind spots that can get called out with another individual (peer or coach) in the one on one relationship that is distinct.  We can often help to tease out possibilities that aren’t there from the inside to the outside with this type of interaction.

    We found that a “coaching”  today is not a part of the environments for traditional management and leadership roles within most organizations today.  What we are noticing is that we have a model of ways that “we do work” in organizations today within a paradigm, versus a more social or self organizing model where we get our direction from peers or someone that they admire versus a formal manager within the matrix or organizational structure.

    A sounding board April 30, 2007

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    Another key theme that we are hearing in our interviews about the role of a mentor/coach within the Communities of Practice is that of a sounding board.  It’s a common term, but what does it mean?  According to Merriam-Webster it’s a noun and in this context would be a person or group on whom one tries out an idea or opinion as a means of evaluating it.  Okay, so now we can see that in a fast moving organizational setting how finding these individuals that are SMEs can be like hitting the mother lode.  It allows an individual time to perhaps get a shorter version of that 50 page long powerpoint presentation without having to follow it in a linear fashion.  This individual allows others to skip the unnecessary steps, so one could view it as a time saver?  Others view it as an individual that provides you with guidance or suggestions on how and/or where to “focus” which for some individuals can equate to increased feelings of personal satisfaction in your work and performance.