This week’s curator Sam Thomas looks at some success stories of communities expanding beyond the edges of their organisations.

In digitally mature organisations we are used to seeing strong communities of engaged, self-selecting members gathered around a shared purpose beyond that of their day to day jobs. Organisational communities thrive because they add an extra dimension to the organisational structure, and can increase the number of connections each individual has across the organisation’s network.

Communities can be set up to serve many different purposes, two key types are:

  • Communities of practice: These are set up to improve how an organisation works. Different business areas naturally develop different methods and ways of working over time, and a community of practice allows these ways of working to be shared, discussed and iterated.
  • Innovation communities: An innovation community would typically be gathered around a certain hot-topic or new technology advancement that is expected to affect the organisation’s industry. This allows members to share news, knowledge and updates on the subject, as well as look at how it can be applied to existing problems.

But when operating purely internally to the business, these communities can only optimise and share knowledge that is already present within the organisation. As such it is starting to become more common to see communities set up that span beyond the edges of an organisation.

One such community that is operating beyond the boundaries of any one organisation is the Working Out Loud Community of Practice. Made up from practitioners from Audi, BMW, Bosch, Continental, Daimler, Deutsche Bank, Siemens and Telekom, the ‘WoL CoP’ operates to collaboratively spread the practices of Working Out Loud within their respective companies. So far this has been a successful venture that has energised its participants and allowed them to combine their efforts effectively, last year they even entered and achieved an HR Excellence Award as a cross-company group.

An example of a company who are embracing the idea that innovation doesn’t have to come from within, is the Chinese white goods manufacturer Haier. Since their figurehead, Zhang Ruimin was made CEO of the company in 1993 Haier have been at the forefront of organisational design for manufacturing companies. In 2015 they started a new initiative called the Haier open partnership ecosystem, or HOPE for short. HOPE allows internal Haier teams to post their problems and needs to an open forum for external teams to propose solutions. By operating this model, Haier are able to reap the benefits of innovative ideas being developed in small, medium and large companies all over the world.

For this weeks Linklog, I have included below some links that dive further into WoL CoP and HOPE, as well as looking at some other aspects of what makes communities such a useful structural tool: