At last week’s Web 2.0 workshop and also with some clients recently I started noticing how people mix up communities and work teams – a distinction which I think is worth making.
Work teams work on projects which have a beginning and end, they usually have well-defined roles in those project, and they get paid for doing that work – it’s their job. To use Dan Ariely’s metaphore, they are evaluating what they do and how much they contribute in their market framework.
Communities are mostly self-organized around a shared passion or around the need for people to help others and be helped. There are few pre-defined roles, and people usually do not get paid to participate – it’s not their job. In the most successful communities, people evaluate their contributions in their social framework.
So why is that important? Because they require radically different motivators in order to work.
Take an innovation initiative within a company. There may be a core set of people in marketing and product development whose job it is to innovate. If at some point you want to externalize that innovation process to include communities with all your employees, customers and prospects, you will need to understand that the motivations of those communities are very different from those of your core innovation team. It’s not their job to innovate and they are likely to be very busy as it is. You could of course pay them to give you ideas, but considering the incentives usually used in communities that is more likely to result in poor ideas than good ones. In order for this to work you need to appeal to a higher social motive – like helping out.
Now if you can instill a higher level of passion in your regular work teams, they too will start performing at a much higher level…