Content Ninja's Weblog

An exploratory journey on the edge of newspaper evolution

Crusade: Carry it back to the silo September 1, 2008

Filed under: community,Uncategorized — contentninja @ 10:49 am
Tags: ,
Concrete silage siloImage via Wikipedia

It’s good to be back. I confess that I lost (or was being ignored by) my muse and have not felt inspired to write for weeks.

WAY back on July 30 I wrote about the debate around whether companies need a companywide social media strategy or if collaboration across departments is the key. I had some good feedback from Beth Kanter and Augie Ray, whose work inspired the post. In the end, I suggested we needed a collaboration strategy.

In the weeks since that post, I’ve spent time pounding the pavement to evangelize and recruit for a prep sports community and attended a multitude of meetings and presentations around the company, and I’m even more convinced that we need that collaboration strategy. And soon.

I believe that “community” is what we need to do all across the company — internal community with our peers; external community with our customers; across all products, core and niche; marketing and customer service.

Naturally, I have an idea for this collaboration, and for fun I’ll stick with the ninja imagery I already have going: That the handful of folks across the company (fine ninja all) who are/will be tasked with exploring/building community be grouped in a “dojo.”

That this group of people make a concerted effort to share information on best practices, tools and research. That they collaborate where it makes sense on determining best practices for our company, be a support network for each other when it makes sense to fight conformity and carry concepts back to their respective departments.

I am not suggesting we create another department. The dojo would be a loosely organized group of people from various departments. Colloboration is the operative word. Each of these ninja, supported by the rest of the dojo, would push their respective silos toward the ideal — community as an integral function of our work and our lives, so ingrained that we eventually don’t need the dojo or even the ninjas.

And “community” is so much bigger than social media. “Social media,” “social networking” — those are really references to the tools we can use to foster relationships. And THAT’S what community is about.

It’s been said to me that the companywide embracing of community is the ideal for some day. Why some day? It’s tempting and easy to put off the hard work to achieve fundamental change, but the ideal doesn’t just turn up, wrapped in silver foil and a red bow. “Oh, look, the ideal has arrived. Isn’t that nice?”

We have to (cue “Battle Hymn of the Republic”) work for it every day, climb hills for it, knowing it’s somewhere on the path ahead, and that effort should start today, one step at a time. And I think the dojo could take responsibility for pushing us along on that march, be guardians of the drive for the ideal, if you will.

You may snicker at this imagery or scoff at my attempt at an inspirational speech (Obama’s speech writers were busy, so I had to go it alone), but don’t ignore the underlying message. That we need to work together and we need to start now.

If we don’t, I fear “community” will become compartmentalized by each department, owned by each silo, a piece of territorial turf to fight over, and we’ll never achieve the ideal.

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8 Responses to “Crusade: Carry it back to the silo”

  1. “companywide embracing of community is the ideal for some day”

    This puts a knot in my stomach. Last week a coworker asked me how things were going. My response:

    “A little slow for my taste.”

    To avoid compartmentalized communities we need to break the mold on compartmentalized priorities. How many people are still chasing ad revenue and not audience or readership? It’s like a traveling comedian asking for $2,000 a show but she can only promise to fill 50 seats at $10 a ticket.

    As I am writing this my mother-in-law asks me why her husband’s monster account sends him ads for Registered Nursing job opps. He’s a friggin ASE Diesel Mechanic. If Monster wants to keep him interested in their community they should only be sending him ads for mechanic opportunities. But they have the wrong people running the show.

    Nice post Annette.


  2. Augie Ray Says:

    Great post. I couldn’t agree more that collaboration is vital. I don’t so much fear compartmentalization as I do anarchy, duplicate work, diminished results, and political infighting.

    I see Social Media exactly as I did the Internet back in the mid 90s (and you’ll recall that within many large organizations there was a lot of independent efforts and battles for a period.) Eventually, business units within large organizations came to realize EVERYONE owned the Web, and the same will be true of Social Media.

    The quicker large organizations can create the means for Social Media knowledge sharing and collaboration, the better they can compete in the brave new Social world!

  3. Sara Sinnard Says:

    Great discussion here. The concept of creating internal communities is a good one. If we don’t build our own internal communities successfully, how do we ever hope to foster external communities..?

    I’m excited to say that our first product announcement went out this morning in the form of a WIKI. I’m hoping that our internal community will contribute and participate in the WIKI. It’s a small step, but a new direction for this kind of announcement. Imagine, all who touched the product, and all who will support the product can participate in the launch buz… Much more engaging than a long, dry email announcement.

    Good blog post Ninja!

  4. Mary Willie Says:

    Can some day be today? We’re way overdue for a collaboration strategy. Duplication of efforts, resouces … good ideas or sources of knowledge that are overlooked … misguided priorities – they’re really wearing us down and wearing us out.

    Great post, Annette.

    do you have a ninja glossary of terms?


  5. robpo Says:

    I think the idea of a “dojo” is a fantastic one!

    Sara’s comment makes me think: Does the general population of our company know what a WIKI is? Its purpose, how to use it? I don’t think so (my perception anyway). That would perhaps be a good function of the dojo- to educate everyone on these social networking tools. I can see a good collaboration for dojo and L&D team to orchestrate training/learning.
    What better crash course than to start using the tools and learning by experience. Good one Sara!

    I second Matthew’s point: real change won’t happen if we continue to make “chasing ad revenue” the first priority. Thats a difficult thing, we’re a company that needs to make money… however, we have to break the mould… if the audience exists the ad revenue will come.

    Is there a social networking tool that would be good for facilitating an internal community culture? A place to post documents, have discussions, a calendar…

  6. iowakitkat Says:

    I think some external communities are ripe for the picking, i.e. prep sports. They should be identified and their champions internally identified as well. Those interested in a community are most likely to have and share a wellspring of ideas to promote interest and audience.

  7. Ron Says:

    You are dead on here. Very good post that I stumbled into today.

  8. contentninja Says:

    Thanks for stopping by, Ron. I enjoyed your post about Twitter being like high school.

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