Community – Online and Offline: A guest post from OD Network Conference 2009

We have a strong commitment to provide the Organization Development community with a series of conversations highlighting the use of social and collaborative media within organizations. We believe that these technologies can be an empowering and enabling force for human potential. We have asked Jackie Alcalde Marr to write a guest post from the OD Network Conference 2009. Her new book, along with authors Arthur Jue and Mary Ellen Kassotakis highlight the use of new communication technologies in the workplace. After reading her post, please share (in our comments section) your experiences with these technologies in the workplace, or what you wish you could do for organizations with them.

cover of Social Media at Work

This week at the OD Network Conference, organization development consultants – -seasoned and newly inspired – gathered to hear one of our favorite thought leaders, Peter Block. Block spoke of the “collective possibility” to “create a future distinct from the past.” This conference, like so many others, lives off of this premise – that people come together to share experience, debate new ideas, learn from each other in order to move their cause, profession or passions forward.

Individuals gathered in “community” can be a powerful force to bring about change at the macro level. And, at the micro level, it simply rejuvenates the individual to be with those who share their interests. Conferences mimic real-life in this way, offering a myriad of concurrent sessions on different topics. When the doors close, the community filling the chairs reflects those who chose to put their time and energy into this particular collective conversation. For the next 90 minutes, the exchange will feed their need to learn, contribute, and form new opinion.

The need to connect with others in community is part of our DNA. In historical times, tribes and clans held us together. Other examples of our need to “belong” to a community include our choice of religion, our expression of our cultural heritage, our loyalty to our company, and more benign examples: college fraternities, rock band groupies, football fans, and those who won’t miss an episode of Heroes! Not only do we get new ideas, we also find information, support and a sense of identity within these groups. But community is not just about what we receive, it’s also about the fulfillment of giving. Consider those in public office or those who organize the local food drive. And each of us gives in small and fleeting community moments as well. Think of how you felt when you helped lift a suitcase into the overhead, or gave directions to a “stranger” on the street.

We see how the power of community plays out in organizations of all kinds. In our book, Social Media At Work, we share how social media tools such as wikis, blogs, and social networking sites accelerate the formation of community and improve performance. These tools enable people who would have never known of each other to connect, communicate and collaborate on difficult problems or new innovations. They facilitate learning and provide new ways for us to engage with each other, to receive and to give our ideas, our opinions and our insights. (Although we haven’t met, you’re reading this now!) This kind or community within organizations – large, small, public, corporate, social – will certainly super charge our ability to effectively “create a future distinct from the past.”

The other night we were honored to be invited to a mixer hosted by Plus Delta Consulting. There we met new friends and found old friends from the previous year’s conference. This new community exchanged ideas, shared wisdom from our experience, and sparked possibilities for new collaborations. Yes, like many others we met at the conference, we will keep in touch via the Internet. We will tweet and blog and join the online social network, and this will keep our community energized. But, we all know that there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned handshake. For that reason, we look forward to seeing everyone again next year to revel in the collective possibility and to continue shaping a future distinct from our past.

Posted in Collaboration, OD Insights, Social Media Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

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