Why Do Communities Matter?

Wendell_Berry_525Photo by Guy Mendes

I’ve just finished reading “What Are People For?”, a collection of essays by Wendell Berry. I don’t always agree with everything Wendell Berry has to say, but I certainly feel like a wiser and better person for having reflected on his point of view.

One of my favorite essays in the book was “The Work of Local Culture”. There were two quotes in the essay about the responsibilities of a community which I thought were worth sharing with all of you, who are helping to build communities in your firms.

The first is about building a shared memory. The second is about building trust. And as you’ll see, the two are related.

Communities Build Shared Memory

“However small a landmark the old bucket is, it is not trivial. It is one of the signs by which I know my country and myself. And to me it is irresistibly suggestive in the way it collects leaves and other woodland shed dings as they fall through time. It collects stories, too, as they fall through time. It is irresistibly metaphorical. It is doing in a passive way what a human community must do actively and thoughtfully. A human community, too, must collect leaves and stories, and turn them to account. It must build soil, and build that memory of itself—in lore and story and song—that will be its culture. These two kinds of accumulations, of local soil and culture, are intimately related.”

Communities Build Trust

“For example, when a community loses its memory, its members no longer know one another. How can they know one another if they have forgotten or have never learned one another’s stories? If they don’t know one another’s stories, how can they know whether or not to trust one another? People who do not trust one another do not help one another, and moreover they fear one another.”

Shared Memory and Trust Lead to Helpful Community Members

Sometimes I think it is easy to get lost in engagement tactics and product features (how to build communities) and lose sight of the big picture (why communities matter).

Building shared memory and trust so that community members will help one another is a pretty good answer to the question of “Why do communities matter?” in my book.

Posted: October 22nd, 2014 | Filed under: Quotable | No Comments »

A Really, Really Smart Way to Get Senior AEC Firm Leaders to Start Sharing Knowledge on a Social Network

How do we get our senior leaders to start sharing knowledge on social networks?

It’s a great question, and not just for marketing directors and intranet managers. Most of the senior leaders of architecture and engineering firms we talk to at Knowledge Architecture want to share their knowledge on LinkedIn, the company blog, and intranet. However, they have two very valid concerns which need to be addressed:

1) How do I know what knowledge of mine is valuable?
2) Where will I find the time?

Overcoming Content Anxiety

I gave a talk called “Short Passes: 5 Ways to Beat Content Anxiety” at KA Connect 2014 this past June.

One of the tips I shared came from Andy Ernsting, Brand Communications Leader at DLR Group. Andy shared the story of driving early adoption of SquareOne (their new intranet) at one of our client workshops last fall.

Andy’s tip speaks right to the heart of the two questions above—”what knowledge should I share?” and “where will I find the time?”

“We’re just asking you to comment. Once a week.”

In the clip above I paraphrased what Andy told the participants in our workshop. Here’s the key part:

“We’re just asking you to comment. Once a week. We’re not necessarily asking you to write long posts. We’re not asking you to bare your soul, or at least not at first.

But what we want you to do, once a week, is just comment on something. Ask a pertinent question. Answer somebody’s question. Thank somebody for sharing what they’ve shared.”

Why This Tip is Awesome

First, asking a leader to comment once a week is totally achievable. You are giving them a specific and easy way to add value, something a time-pressed senior leader can surely appreciate.

Second, when you step back and think about knowledge sharing, a lot of times, the value is in the comments. Someone is asking for help because they don’t have an answer. A lot of your senior leaders have that knowledge and they want to share it—they’re just not quite sure how to get started.

Finally, once your leaders start sharing their knowledge in comments and see how easy and rewarding it is, many of them will go on to write the LinkedIn, blog, and intranet posts you wanted them to write in the first place.

Want to Learn More?

Visit the KA Connect website to watch more talks, connect with our community, and learn more about our annual conference on knowledge management in the AEC industry.

Posted: October 9th, 2014 | Filed under: General, Quotable | No Comments »

3 Myths about Content Marketing in AEC Firms

We asked the panelists in the Trends in Web Communications Panel Discussion at KA Connect 2014 to describe the biggest myths about content marketing in AEC firms. Here’s what they had to say.

Myth #1: Content Marketing Generates Immediate Results

“The time it takes to get from committing yourself to offering original content and trying to make that content become meaningful and valuable to the time you’re going to see substantial business outcomes from it can be quite long.

Usually we tell clients it is a three-year window before you start to see the types of business outcomes that you really would like to get from a [content marketing] effort. You’re building something that’s long term and sustainable. I think that sometimes clients are looking for a quick win that’s somehow going to replace their trade show effort or something. They’re expecting that same kind of short-term marketing model, short-term outcome, and it’s just not really the way it works.”

Jason Mlicki, Rattleback

Myth #2: Content Must Be Perfect to Be Effective

“I would say another major myth is about quality [of content]. In certain industries, AEC, probably law firms, the myth is that it’s got to be perfect, excellent quality and you can’t release it until it is.

And then in other industries, consumer products and other things, it can just be anything. ‘Just throw some content out there! It’ll get shared! It’ll go viral! Yaaah!’

So the myth is on both ends of the spectrum, but it’s about the quality of the content. The nature of your industry is going to dictate whether your myth is on one end or the other, but the reality is somewhere in the middle.

It should be of good quality, obviously, excellent quality, but the reality is that it doesn’t have to be exactly probably what you’re thinking it needs to be.”

Bill Shander, Beehive Media

Myth #3: Content Marketing Is Primarily about Generating Leads

“I think it’s important that you don’t think of [content marketing] as sales. The more information you can give out to the community, the more you can share—that’s where the value is. You don’t want it to be too salesy.”

Jaron Rubenstein, Rubenstein Technology Group

“A couple of years ago, I put together a survey of firms that were marketing with content and the prerequisite was that they were actually using that model and were funding it and we were looking at outcomes.

The firm that was the most successful out of the entire audience was a firm whose core web objective was educating and informing. Their entire objective for their website was to educate and inform the clients they want to do business with.

The firms that were focused on generating leads (which in my mind is just the outcome and yield of quality content) had worse performance. It kind of comes down to your fundamental objective needs to be about this kind of open authenticity of, ‘We’re just trying to help.’

As long as you’re just trying to help, at some point, client activities start to happen. But the moment you start trying to accomplish some tangible business objective—you want leads, you want opportunities, you want revenue—the whole thing kind of just doesn’t work as well as it could.”

Jason Mlicki, Rattleback

Want to Learn More?

Watch individual talks from our panelists and the full panel discussion on the KA Connect website:

Posted: September 25th, 2014 | Filed under: Insights | No Comments »

How can you tell if an intranet is a community?

“Not all intranets are communities and not all communities are intranets.”

One of the audience members at KA Connect 2014 asked the following question of the Orchestrating Digital Communities session panel:

“Would you define an intranet as a community? And if not, can you migrate an intranet to a community?”

After agreeing that that “Not all intranets are communities and not all communities are intranets,” the panel discussed the differences between analog communities, digital communities, and intranets.

One interesting outcome of the discussion was two ways to tell if intranets are communities or simply information repositories.

#1: “The most vibrant communities that we work with within intranets were already communities before they became communities on the intranet.”

“You tap into existing groups that are already sharing knowledge, they’re already coming together, and you just give them digital tools. But they still keep meeting face-to-face.”

Christopher Parsons, Knowledge Architecture

#2: “If there are shared aspirations or shared goals.”

Yori_KA_Connect_2014_Communities_600

“I put the definition of community slide up [above] in my presentation, so as long as you’re sort of satisfying those [criteria] in some form or fashion, I think one can sort of fashion a level of activity around that. But if it’s [simply] an intranet space to just post information—you have an HR site that lays out all the policies or whatever, that’s an informational repository as opposed to a community.”

Robert Yori, SOM

Want to learn more?

You can watch the full Orchestrating Digital Communities session panel discussion here. All of the talks from the conference are available on the KA Connect Talks page.

Posted: September 18th, 2014 | Filed under: General | Comments Off

Vanessa DiMauro on the Importance of Great Content to Online Communities

“People come for content and stay for community.”

“People come for content and stay for community” was one of the five secrets Vanessa DiMauro of Leader Networks shared with us in her KA Connect 2014 talk, “Secrets of Great Communities and Community Managers.”

So what makes great online community content great?

Here are three key points from the clip above:

#1: Knowledge Assets Drive Community Membership

“The greatest way to get people to join the community is by having a knowledge asset, something that they really want to be the inspiration for why they join, why they say, ‘Hey, I’m going to check this out and I’m going to commit some time. I’m going to fill out that profile.’ ”

#2: Knowledge Assets Must Be Unique

“The content in the community needs to be unique, something they can’t get elsewhere.”

#3: Knowledge Assets Should Be Derivative of Community Member Experiences

“Most importantly, the best content for knowledge communities are those that are derivative of the user’s experiences. They’re there because they want to hear what their peers and experts have to say on a topic. Using the power to convene and creating those knowledge assets, as the derivative of their experience is very, very powerful.”

Want to learn more?

Watch Vanessa DiMauro’s full KA Connect 2014 Talk “Secrets of Great Communities and Community Managers” and/or the full panel discussion on “Orchestrating Digital Communities”.

Posted: September 2nd, 2014 | Filed under: General | Comments Off

KA Connect 2015 :: Save the Date

KA_Connect_2015_Blog

KA Connect 2015 will take place at San Francisco’s Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on May 5th and 6th, 2015.

Senior and emerging leaders from top AEC firms will lead case studies, workshops, panel discussions, and breakout groups on building highly connected practices. We’ll be announcing speakers and program details over the next several months.

Take advantage of early registration pricing while we plan.

Before September 26th, 2014     $795.00
Before January 23rd, 2015                   $995.00
Before March 20th, 2015                      $1,195.00
After March 20th, 2015                         $1,395.00

Learn more about KA Connect 2015

Posted: August 26th, 2014 | Filed under: General | Comments Off

4 Tips for Facilitating Great Online Discussions from Stephen Hardy of MindMixer

MindMixer provides communities with online engagement tools that allow them to have more productive, collaborative conversations. 700 communities around the world use MindMixer to connect over 1 million participants online.

Stephen Hardy, MindMixer’s Chief Product Officer, shared his insights for building thriving online communities at KA Connect 2014. In this clip, Stephen shares four tips for community managers looking to drive more engaging discussions:

#1: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Detailed Questions

Stephen Hardy 2014 Be Descriptive
“We kind of assumed that you’d want to be short and sweet and get right to the point (when phrasing discussion topics). What we found is longer questions indicate more investment on your part in really wanting good answers.”

#2: Positively Worded Questions Outperform Negatively Worded Questions

Stephen-Hardy-2014-Be-Positive
“Questions with positive emotional achievement words encourage participation. ‘Best’, ‘great’, ‘proud’, ‘win’, ‘advance’, and ‘overcome’ are positive achievement words that will give you a much better result than if you’re saying ‘keep in mind we have a limited budget’ or ‘under constraints.’ Exclusive words like ‘not’, ‘rather’, ‘don’t', and ‘block’ don’t perform nearly as well.”

#3: Use the Word ‘We’ to Make Questions More Engaging

Stephen Hardy 2014 Use The Word We
“Highlight personal affiliations. The average number of times that just the word ‘we’ is used in questions is an indication of how successful you’ll be in getting engagement around a response.”

#4: Acknowledging Participant Contributions Makes All the Difference

Stephen Hardy 2014 Acknowledge Positive Contributions
“On the left is an example of a community who through time was responding and making sure that people were acknowledged. On the right…crickets. Somebody asked a question and there was no response on the other end of it. What we’ve seen time and time again is that there’s a direct relationship between re-engagement, feedback, affirmation and the willingness of a community to be coming back and participating with you through time.”

Want to learn more?

Watch Stephen Hardy’s full KA Connect 2014 Talk “No One Knows As Much As Everyone” and/or the full panel discussion on “Orchestrating Digital Communities”.

Posted: August 21st, 2014 | Filed under: General | Comments Off

Save the Date: Fall 2014 Synthesis Workshops

Synthesis Workshops combine short presentations and roundtable discussions.

Our clients share innovative digital and analog approaches to connecting their practices. We share sneak previews of new technology from the lab.

Synthesis Workshops are free of charge and limited to active clients of Knowledge Architecture.

FALL 2014 WORKSHOPS

Milwaukee Skyline Milwaukee
October 16, 2014
9am – 5pm
@Eppstein Uhen Architects
RSVP Here
New York Skyline New York
November 11, 2014
9am – 5pm
@Steelcase New York
RSVP Here
Seattle Skyline Seattle
December 4, 2014
9am – 5pm
@LMN Architects
RSVP Here
Posted: August 20th, 2014 | Filed under: Synthesis | Comments Off

KA Connect 2014 Talks Now Available Online

The talks from KA Connect 2014 are now available online.

Enjoy.

Posted: July 28th, 2014 | Filed under: General | Comments Off

What makes for a great community manager?

Vanessa DiMauro gave a great talk at KA Connect 2014 called “Secrets of Great Communities and Community Managers.” Vanessa is uniquely qualified to speak to this topic. Her company, Leader Networks, specializes in helping businesses build deeper relationships with key stakeholders like clients, members, and employees through digital B2B communities.

In her talk, Vanessa shared 5 things that great communities and community managers do well. Vanessa’s talk will be up on the KA Connect website (along with all the other talks from the conference) in a few weeks. In the interim, here are Vanessa’s five secrets:

#1: Great online communities are strategic.
#2: Great online communities develop a 90-day plan, every 90 days.
#3: People come for content and stay for community.
#4: When online communities become great, the members take control.
#5: Great online communities demonstrate tangible value over time.

You can find more detail in this blog post. Anything to add?

Posted: July 10th, 2014 | Filed under: General | Comments Off

Get People Commenting the Old-Fashioned Way with Synthesis

Get People Commenting the Old-Fashioned Way with Synthesis

A simple intranet idea. Pass it on.

Posted: June 25th, 2014 | Filed under: Insights, Intranet Ideas, Synthesis | Comments Off

Crowdsource Design Precedents with Synthesis

Crowdsource Design Precedents with Synthesis

A simple intranet idea. Pass it on.

Posted: May 27th, 2014 | Filed under: Insights, Intranet Ideas, Synthesis | Comments Off

Missed our inaugural Office Hours webinar? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.

Susan and Chris hosted Knowledge Architecture’s inaugural KA Advance Office Hours on May 15th. Not to worry, we recorded the session for those of you who couldn’t make it.

Here’s a brief overview of what you missed:

1:38  Announcements

6:00  What’s the roadmap for adding projects, companies, opportunities to Synthesis Mobile for Android?

7:05  Can you remind the group of the SharePoint 2013 schedule?

14:30  When should we advise users to use email versus posting on the intranet?

17:20   What do you think about creating a corporate communications user?

19:40  What impact will Newforma’s new integration with SharePoint have on Synthesis?

20:55  Should we produce intranet training videos?

26:00  Are there any plans to add ad hoc groups to Synthesis?

27:35  How do we know if we’re successful with Synthesis?

29:35  Call for intranet tour guides! Interested? Email Susan and Chris at advance@knowledge-architecture.com.

Next Office Hours on June 19th

Registration is now open for the next KA Advance Office Hours on Thursday, June 19th at 11 PST.

Posted: May 21st, 2014 | Filed under: Office Hours | Comments Off

Now that’s what I call a positioning statement.

Bookshop Positioning Statement

This small, yellow, folded piece of paper was placed on top of my wife’s order from BOOK/SHOP. I love the close:

“These are the people we’re working for.”

Perfect.

Posted: May 19th, 2014 | Filed under: Quotable | Comments Off

Use Synthesis to Share Benchmarking Information

KA Intranet Ideas Share Benchmarking Information

A simple intranet idea. Pass it on.

Posted: May 13th, 2014 | Filed under: Intranet Ideas, Synthesis | Comments Off

“Start with a box.” Or, the best advice I’ve ever read on organizing creative ideas.

The Creative Habit

The following is an excerpt from The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp’s amazing book on creativity:

 

Everyone has his or her own organizational system. Mine is a box, the kind you can buy at Office Depot for transferring files. I start every dance with a box. I write the project name on the box, and as the piece progresses I fill it up with every item that went into the making of the dance. This means notebooks, news clippings, CDs, videotapes of me working alone in my studio, videos of the dancers rehearsing, books and photographs and pieces of art that may have inspired me.

[...]

There are separate boxes for everything I’ve ever done. If you want a glimpse into how I think and work, you could do worse than to start with my boxes.

The box makes me feel organized, that I have my act together even when I don’t know where I’m going yet.

It also represents a commitment. The simple act of writing a project name on the box means I’ve started work.

The box makes me feel connected to a project. It is my soil. I feel this even when I’ve back-burnered a project: I may have put the box away on a shelf, but I know it’s there. The project name on the box in bold black lettering is a constant reminder that I had an idea once and may come back to it very soon.

Most important, though, the box means I never have to worry about forgetting. One of the biggest fears for a creative person is that some brilliant idea will get lost because you didn’t write it down and put it in a safe place. I don’t worry about that because I know where to find it. It’s all in the box…”

 
I first read The Creative Habit back in 2008 and have been following her advice to “start with a box” ever since. My ideas for new products, features, conference speakers, and blog posts all go in “boxes”, which are Basecamp projects for me. I know my ideas are safe and sound in the box, out of my head so I can focus on the work at hand.

When it is time to start working on that product, feature, conference, or post, I always look forward to opening up the box, because by then I’ve completely forgotten the notes I put inside.

One of the benefits of this approach is that when I do eventually open up the box, I get to enjoy the idea all over again. (Assuming it is good. If not, I get a good laugh from the fact I ever thought the idea was worth writing down.)

I was in the process of filing ideas for a new product into a box when I decided to share this. I hope you found it useful and consider reading The Creative Habit.

You won’t regret it.

Posted: May 7th, 2014 | Filed under: General, Quotable | Comments Off

Introducing KA Advance Office Hours

Office Hours Image

30 minutes of Synthesis Q+A with Susan and Chris.

May 15th at 10 AM PST.

All we need is you.

Register here.

Posted: May 7th, 2014 | Filed under: Synthesis | Comments Off

Generate Momentum for your Synthesis Launch with a Preview Video

Video is a great medium for building excitement prior to launching Synthesis firmwide. Check out this awesome example from BKF Engineers.

A simple intranet idea. Pass it on.

Posted: April 30th, 2014 | Filed under: Intranet Ideas, Synthesis | Comments Off

Publish User-Generated Content with Synthesis

Intranet Ideas 2

A simple intranet idea. Pass it on.

Posted: April 8th, 2014 | Filed under: Intranet Ideas, Synthesis | Comments Off

ARCHITECT Magazine’s R+D Awards Call For Entries: Submissions Due April 18

ARCHITECT R+D Awards

Many member firms of the KA Connect community are investing in R+D. If you haven’t seen it, ARCHITECT Magazine has been running an annual R+D awards program for the last eight years. Here’s a short summary of the program:

“To celebrate the building technologies that are revolutionizing the process and product of architecture, ARCHITECT magazine announces its eighth annual R+D Awards program. The awards honor innovative design and systems at every scale—from entire buildings to building systems, discrete products and materials, and digital tools such as software, cloud-based platforms, and mobile apps. The R+D Awards welcome entries of all types to encourage the broadest possible dialogue among architects, engineers, manufacturers, researchers, students, and designers of all disciplines.”

More information about the award program’s rules and regulations and past award winners is available on the ARCHITECT site.

Good luck!

Posted: April 3rd, 2014 | Filed under: General | Comments Off