Cycle 5: INVITING MEMBERS
A practice depends on dynamic interchange between members where information is shared and applied to new learning and to the creation of collective understanding. The site I created is a good starting point, but now I need others to help to make it a viable tool and place of learning.
I invited a few key members to the site. These people had expressed an interest in participating in the site. My goal was to invite members and see how responsive they would be. How fast would they review the site? How often would they access it? What type of feedback would I get?
In addition, I know that those I invited have contacts with others in the organization that might also benefit from the site and possibly become part of an ongoing dialogue. Instead of inviting those others, I purposely wanted to see if the first level of experts (my initial invitees) would see the value and forward the names of others who might also benefit. One of the drawbacks to SharePoint is that while anyone can view the site, participants who want to interact with the site need special privileges. Thus, an ongoing concern is how to create an environment that is open and that actively recruits participants.
How did I evaluate the cycle
The pool of potential invitees is more than thirty Articulate users. However, I only invited four external team users, and then four of my teammates. The external users each have contacts with the other potential members. I invited them because I had substantial contact with them and recognized their position of influence among the others Articulate users in the organization. For instance, one of those I invited is the “go-to-guy” for our network of trainers at sites around the country. He is a resource of multimedia information, and often relays conversations with our team to those in the trainer’s network. The others are those who I have had more informal conversations with and seem to be more in tune with what I’d like to do. They also have a level of experience and expertise that the other users do not have. My goal was to leverage their interest and expertise.
Prior to sending formal invitations to the site, I built interest in informal conversation. I discussed what I wanted to do and determined the person’s level of interest. They all affirmed the desire to participate. I followed the informal discussion by giving each invitee access to the site and read/write permission. I then invited them via email. I provided the link, explained some of the basics of the site, and asked for feedback within a couple of weeks. In addition, I asked if they knew of any others who might find the information of value, and if so to forward the names to me so that I could add them and send them an invitation.
On the site, I created a survey. The survey collects information about their skill level with various multimedia applications. I asked each user to complete the survey since it will serve as a means for others to network and learn more about peers in the organization. For instance, if I needed help with Flash, I could look at the survey results and see which site member has experience with Flash and ask for help.
In addition to external members, I also invited all of the members of my team. Again, my ultimate goal is to determine how best to build social connection with my team and craft practice-like activities where we learn from each other and produce a better product. The site is a step in that direction.
Of the people I invited, I only got three responses. The good news is that of those three, two forwarded names of seven other potential members. In addition, no one on my team responded. In reviewing the site statistics, I found that none of the users have done more than look at the site. Thus far, I am the only one to have completed the survey or add any information.
It is a first step, so I did not expect much. I do have some more names of potential users and I will do another launch and just keep plugging away.
Cycle 5 Reflection
I cannot expect that because I create a site all of a sudden it will flourish with interaction and become a thriving practice. A community of practice takes time to develop. Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder (2002) say that communities need to “invite interaction to make them alive.” The site I created is the first step in constructing the interaction. As people need help, the connections will be made. What we have now, that we did not have before, is a place to collect and share our interactions. This is a first step.
My challenge is in determining how to help the site evolve. Wenger, McDermott, and Synder (2002) identify three phases of community development. They are formation, integration, and transformation. At this point, my efforts represent the formation stage. I am involved in identifying potential and helping to coalesce common ground and value. Part of the communities development hinges on the interaction I have with others. It might be the case that while others want to be connected and share, they might choose to not use the SharePoint site. All I can do is focus on what I have to offer.
Wenger, McDermott, and Snyder (2002) do offer seven principles for cultivating a community of practice. They are:
- Design for evolution.
- Open a dialogue between inside and outside perspectives.
- Invite different levels of participation.
- Develop both public and private community spaces.
- Focus on value.
- Combine familiarity and excitement.
- Create a rhythm for the community.
I believe that I am on the road to doing those things. My goal is to continue to add to the site, actively invite people, and use it as a tool when I field calls. Right now, I am a practice of one, but I firmly believe that in time others will come on board.