How To Build A Thriving Community of Practice
When you feel a part of something, it gives you the space to create work that others want to get behind.
Learning and involvement become embraced by the group.
Alone we are good, together we are great. We can now all be the stars of the show.
What happens is that learning, connection and doing help to create identity. You just need to give people the space to create where they know others are there with them, not just hoping someone will encourage them.
The recent You Are The Media Creator Day demonstrated a live example of what community of practice means.
This is a term coined in the 90s by anthropologists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger. It refers to people with similar interests who collaborate and work together in a continuous learning process.
Three characteristics are important, based on domain, community and practice. Let me put it into the context of what happened.
These are the interests that bring people together. It establishes a shared way of being together, motivating each other to join in and get to know people better and has significance to what people what to achieve.
PROOF – the people who attended Creator Day were all connected via the weekly newsletter. This is why no places were handed out to anyone who hadn’t booked, just to fill space. What could start as feeling unfamiliar, such as travelling down and not knowing too many people, ended with connections and new bonds made.
The domain we formed last week was to turn the centre of Poole into the YATM precinct (thanks to Trevor Young for that title). We congregated for an evening the day before Creator Day at the new Foundry co-working space and then the following day, the main event was at the theatre, over the road.
As people engage in shared activities, discussions, and problem-solving opportunities, they pursue their common interests, sharing information and building relationships. Community isn’t just about a collective of people, it’s a foundation for facilitating collective learning and promoting the exchange of ideas. Action is integral.
PROOF – The final section for Creator Day is called ‘working together.’ We find a way for people to work together in groups where the output is to produce a piece of content. It’s not content that the whole group produces, but each person creates their own piece of work, but with others around them for encouragement, ideas and accountability. We formed 15 groups, intending to not create and publish during the day, but on an agreed date within the group. We’re all coming back online on 10th May to check in with each group and close Creator Day ’23.
This is where members are effectively practitioners who apply their learning that ties back into the domain (being a part of YATM). Developing interaction and collective knowledge then gives the freedom to deliver.
PROOF – Since the delivery of Creator Day, the output has been twofold. The first is the task that everyone joined in with for the ‘working together’ session. The second has been the levels of thought, creativity and delivery from people who were a part of the day. For instance, this is more than a tweet from someone regarding what a presenter said, but standing out by interpreting with their own unique stamp.
Have a look at examples of what ‘practice’ looks like from those within the community,
Have a look at Bethany Carter’s one-minute video from her day.
It’s doesn’t stop there…
Here is Yolanda Sissing’s video from the day.
Helen Tarver took the recent Wes Anderson trend into her own style
Sarah Clay stamped her thoughts of why this event didn’t fit into the usual conference box.
Read Liam Toms account of being better together through the eyes of Star Wars
This snapshot from Harvard Business Review in 2020 shows the difference between a community of practice to networking. Hope it helps to define.
What Community Of Practice Means In The Live Lab
From the recent Creator Day occasion, this ability for people to be connected around an idea, join in and then progress and elevate their work helps shape new opportunities.
This is what I am noticing:
— When we surround ourselves with people we trust, it shapes our identity. Having an occasion where people can look around and recognise they are a part of something, with others, it validates the entire effort (and decide to participate). This is something that feels completely different from pure online interaction. It’s the ability to talk, for someone else to join the discussion, to share, to just finding common ground.
— If you put in the effort something may come from it. The possibility has to be a driver. You can’t just expect the world to come to you, you have to put in the work and the time. You probably have to reiterate, pause and reshape, but if you have a goal where everyone can benefit, isn’t that worth pursuing?
— Social networks don’t have to suck us in. We realised from Creator Day ’23 that being a part of an independent creative space, meant that support was around all of us. Whilst someone may have a large social following, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the following is going to be there when you need them the most. This could be from shaping new ideas to supporting someone else.
— The encouragement for more (joining in, interaction, stronger relationships). What happens away from our work highlights that getting involved does have clear benefits. It probably does mean pushing ourselves as the easiest thing to do sometimes is to be detached from the group. However, the more you are prepared to step into the middle of the ring, the greater the return ie. support, acknowledgement, being seen by others.
— Encouraged to push ourselves to deliver better work. When you have no input, feedback and no one to nudge you, it’s easier to accept that your work is good enough. The problem is, it is in danger of sounding a lot like everyone else, that doesn’t necessarily define what you want to achieve. Having others around you, means that you are part of a network that is designed to push each other, rather than accept the way things have always been.
— Working and figuring it out together is empowering and opens new possibilities. Answers don’t have to be from books or people with popular social media accounts, sometimes it is better to be on a journey with others where there is a common interest and to dig deep, where everyone has a shovel.
— It is far easier to do what others are doing and it is harder to raise your work to the level, but it is so much more rewarding. When you are encouraged to recognise the values/beliefs you have that have an association with your skillsets, you start to carve your own space. It comes down to why should people care? No one needs to create more but create for the right audience, so people want to stay and make a commitment to you.
The power of a community of practice means you advance the role you play, within the industry you serve. It’s the ongoing interaction with a group of people, that gives you the encouragement, spark and drive to progress your efforts.
We saw it first hand at You Are The Media Creator Day, with collective learning being our catalyst and then the ability to work together in our own groups. It’s the activities and encouragement to join in that help elevate the whole occasion.
Having a shared identity is important, it creates breakthroughs, knowledge to be shared, growth to be found and new opportunities to discover.