Lisa Williams and I talked last week about journalists innovating at the individual level. That may seem like an insurmountable task, but look at startups. What makes them work is not the grinding machinery of business processes; it’s people — a mere handful of people who roll up their sleeves and DO.
So we innovate on the individual level by thinking like a startup, but I concede that we won’t “turn the Titanic” (to borrow Williams’ metaphor) without management support.
Author Scott Berkun, interviewed for AIGA, puts it this way:
“Casual Fridays, innovation offsites or giving people copies of Who Moved My Cheese are all nice things, but have zero direct impact on creativity in the workplace. It’s the behavior of leaders and managers that determines how innovative a group is, and most of what enables creativity is entirely free. You can spend a zillion dollars on creativity efforts, but if the basic behavior of managers doesn’t change, you’re wasting your money.”
CEO Chuck Peters has been “walking the talk” for some time. He’s asking if I know yet how I will do this. I have not mapped all of the abyss, but in the darkness I can feel something taking shape, a mixture of content and context creation, aggregated community-generated context and social tools or their best functionalities used to connect with the community.
Every day I learn something from other voices in the dark. Take Furqan Nazeeri’s blog Altgate. His post, “10 Web 2.0 Tips: $75,” speaks to that entrepreneurial, startup spirit. He created a social network for Obama supporters to recycle used campaign material. He did it cheaply and quickly. No teams to build, meetings to hold or spreadsheets to fill out. It’s a beautiful thing.
Lesson for me? There are three types of community members (emphasis is mine): “My guess is that for every 1,000 members, about 900 are lurkers, 90 are participants and 10 are activists. Each of these segments has different needs. For example, blogs are great for activists, but polls can be a better way to engage participants. The lesson here is to think about these segments separately.“
This is why audience discovery is so important and where I’m concentrating my efforts at the moment. What do people want? How can we help? Focus groups start tonight and go all week.