Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Moon Shots on the MIX: Developing Communities of Passion Hackathon


  I’ve posted previously on Gary Hamel’s Moon Shots for Management and on my support for these.

I’m particularly interested in (and passionate about) this one:


Moonshot #22: Enable Communities of Passion

“Passion is a multiplier of human effort, but it can’t be manufactured. It’s present only when people get the chance to work on what they truly care about.”

Passion is a significant multiplier of human accomplishment, particularly when like-minded individuals converge around a worthy cause. Yet a wealth of data indicates that most employees are emotionally disengaged at work. They are unfulfilled, and consequently their organizations underperform. Companies must encourage communities of passion by structuring work and revising management processes to help people tap into a higher calling at work, by connecting employees who share similar passions, and by better aligning the organization’s objectives with the natural interests of its people.”


For a year I even moderated a ning-based community focused on further exploration of these moonshots - wanting to better understand the enablement of communities from a practical as well as conceptual perspective.

More recently, I’ve kept an eye on the development of Gary Hamel’s new forum for developing the future of management: the Management Innovation eXchange, or the MIX.

So when the MIX announced the formation of a Hackathon to develop hacks focused on developing communities of passion I was keen to get involved and am now working as part of a small group to develop a shared understanding about the value and attributes of these communities, the barriers in their creating and sustaining them etc.


Developing the Hack

  The hackathon is definitely producing some interesting outputs already – you can see these up at the MIX.

I particularly like Steve Todd’s definition of a community of passion, based upon his Wordle that I’ve included above:

“Together, an innovative new group of members share their interest and ideas, for the purpose of one common goal, and build many different, unique solutions.”


As well as his definition for what it means to enable a community of passion:

“Question your mind,think of others, identify talent, find knowledge.”


Todd suggests the key enabler for communities of passion is selflessness.  I’d certainly agree selflessness is good, which is why I think other heavy users of social media often make such good social companions.  But I think there’s more to it than this as well.

For me, the real key goes beyond selflessness, it’s togetherness.  It’s not about me, but it’s not just about you – it’s about us.  (The problem I think is that Todd took out all the words such as passion, community and people in creating his Wordle – but this means that this means the essential truth of what community is about.)


My input focused on the problem of limited time / priority.  People have so many other things to do that there are only a couple of communities they can ever be that active in.  This means that the strongest contributors in one community are often limited to being lurkers (legitimate peripheral participants) in others.

In organisations, this means leaders need to:

  • Educate their employees that participation in community is important
  • Provide their people with enough free / unallocated time to invest in community activity
  • Help / allow their people to prioritise – to decide which two or three communities are most important to them (feedback from these would then provide the basis for these employees’ performance management, accepting that the employee would be a lurker in any others).


Developing the Community

  The other thing that has interested me is how the Hackathon group / team has itself been developing as a community (I’m not actually sure whether it has ever been designed to be a community, and in some ways falls out of the confines of a community as defined above in that the group has a very clear task focus.  However, for me, there’s a clear logic in the group becoming a community which is to provide an experiential, action learning based approach to developing the communities of passion hack.


It’s one of the things I’ve never liked about the MIX – it’s really a very anti-social site.  There’s no real way to discover who’s there (other than using google -, or to communicate with them, other than in the context of a particular update.  And it’s also very hierarchical – with regular posts from Gary Hamel’s friends (the mavericks) – meaning it’s even less likely that effective collaboration and innovation is going to take place.

Not everyone has liked the system we’ve been using for the hackathon – Saba’s Collaboration Suite – eg there have been quite a few comments on its clunkinness.  But I actually prefer the Saba system to the MIX – it’s at least got an element of social – allowing people to connect to each other and chat more generally.

However (and I don’t know if this is a flaw with Saba’s system or just the way it’s being used), I’ve also found the hackathon process very constraining.  We’re following a design thinking approach which I think has been useful in helping us work together in a systematic way to achieve something of value, but hasn’t enabled much bonding.

I think we needed a sense of who we are and how we relate before we started to put those relationships to use.  I think doing this lies at the heart of most innovation, and communities of passion too.


Also see these posts:

Gary Hamel on the Future of Management:

  • What’s your HCM POV?
  • Management innovation: can dogs do the tango?
  • Requirements for organisational innovation

Management Lab:

Julian Birkinshaw on Reinventing Management:

My / other hacks at the MIX:

  • Is 2011 the time to stop treating people like tools
  • My best hacks and stories at the MIX


Technorati Tags: Gary Hamel,Moon Shots,Management,Innovation,Exchange,MIX,Hackathon,Communities,Passion,Saba,Live,Collaboration,hacks


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