When Building Communities, Simple Actions are Sometimes Most Powerful

This is Part One in a Four-Part Series on Observations on Community Building

I wanted to try an experiment on my blog where for four consecutive weeks, I write down and share one thought or observation that’s been kicking around in my head regarding communities, and aspects of building or managing them. I really hope to spark some conversation from others in the comments, so please weigh in.

To start with, I’ve been considering the pattern I keep on seeing where often times, the things that really make a powerful impact on communities are simple, low-tech actions, applied thoughtfully. No new platforms, new technologies, or engineering cycles needed.

For example, at Shapeways in the last few months, I’ve put together something we call the Materials Status Page. Each of Shapeways’ different materials have different lead times associated with them. But what happens when there are issues with a particular material, and things don’t go as planned? While our real goal is to make the Materials Status Page obsolete, for now, we update the page to reflect what speed the material is running at (green, yellow, or red like a traffic light), let you know how many days behind it is, and offer a comment or two to provide some context. This page is nothing more than a table, written in HTML, and me and another non-tech member of my team were able to throw it together (hi Nancy!) in an hour or so. But as soon as we published it, it was adopted instantly, getting passed around our community to help people in their decision making process about what and when they order. It’s also become an important tool for our Support team.

Another more general example is the rise of coworking, as a movement. It’s really nothing fancier than a bunch of people who have decided to sit together and work in a room (versus sitting alone to work in a different room). However, because of the people who have driven the movement, and the way they’ve set the tone, this incredibly simple act tends to draw a particular type of person (entrepreneurial, creative, people-driven) and the practice of coworking has created a happier, more meaningful work experience for thousands of people.

My point is that you don’t necessarily need anything complex in order to meet your community’s needs, or create meaningful experiences for them. It’s got a lot more to do with who you are, who your team is, and the motivating factors behind your actions.

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