Is ‘Mandatory Community’ Still a Community?

In the public domain people form real communities out of true, intrinsic personal interest and gain (or at least that is the motivation initially). As such the cost of entering those web2.0 communities – ‘purchasing’ the infrastructure to gain access the the web (i.e. a pc and a pipe) and conforming to the globally agreed web protocols and community behaviours, is trivial when compared to the benefit we attribute to being part of a community and gaining the knowledge, support, respect, participation, belonging, etc.

The phenomenal growth we see in specific aspects of the web community, especially those formed by knowledge based or more proactive open-source engineering communities has changed the world in a sense that a new, viral, problem solving engine has been created to harness the grey-matter of an ever increasing resource-pool.

It’s amazing to think that such a powerful entity has been formed on a purely volutary basis by people sharing little more than a common interest. Looking to this kind of community model as a means of increasing innovation and collabration within the workplace is a natural aspiration, and a valid aspiration, but I’m wondering if the essence and the inherent success of the open community model does actually translate effectively into the closed community model (I refer to that which exists between employees within a large organisation).

When we look at the motivations of individuals in the workplace I am guessing that the vast majority see their labour as a means of generating income and as such tune their labour inputs to a level which is comfortable in respect of the income generated. Within that population we then have a subset, and I would argue a small subset, who generally aspire to going the extra mile and see their labour as an opportunity to take things to the next level – using that as a means of justifying increased effort with the goal of longer term reward. Regardless of the numbers/ratios, my point here is that the population within this kind of community is less interested in the value of the community model than those who choose to opt-in to an open community such as those we see in the public domain.

If we therefore make participation in the community a ‘mandatory’ obligation, with an expectation of quantifiable value, over and above meeting the daily functional goals against which we are measured and rewarded, I fear we are likely to alienate more than inspire. This does not mean I have no faith in the community model, I believe I am someone who aspires to more than ‘breaking-even’, but more of an interest in terms of how much we can expect to gain from the imposition of community on a mixed popultion of employees, who at best may form pockets of shared interest. I guess a large part of this is the business-as-usual model by which we stay in business. Add to that the associated issues of corporate regulatory policy and intellectual property rights which further isolate the enterprise community from the public domain and again we’re further limiting the viral expansion and value generated from this kind of model.

Funny that probably the most effective shared-interest community I can see in my enterprise today is the Union, which is not entirely focusing on the same goals as that of an innovation-centric community like apache now is it?

“In human communities, intent, belief, resources, preferences, needs, risks, and a number of other conditions may be present and common, affecting the identity of the participants and their degree of cohesiveness.”

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