Facilitating a Virtual Space

The world has recently fundamentally changed due to the new technologies. Management has changed and work life experiences have changed. We are no longer work in the physical world but participating in an interconnected dynamic space of physical and virtual synchronous and asynchronous space. The new technologies are rapidly improving and changing as we speak. As such, the pace of change and ability to disrupt means that small companies position themselves in the market and change the rules of the game. Everyone is trying to learn the new rules of the game as the disruption continues.  So what skills do we now find we need to survived in this new world (for those of us who have been around for a while)? In particular we need to know how to operate and lead in all kinds of virtual communities, and appreciate a number of simple techniques to facilitate this process. Awareness of cultural differences, appreciating power dynamics online and how to facilitate dialogue are all part of the practice. The virtual community creates opportunities for knowledge sharing, collaboration, cooperation and reframing of previously held ideas. It enables those involved to deepen ideas. The synergy created in a dynamic space enables interactions between those with opposing views colleagues from all over the world coming together to share and create value through social capital.

Virtual Communities of practice created internally within the organization can be powerful mechanisms that lead to the engagement of staff and the creation of new ideas for innovative management. Communities of practice can bring together those who have a passion in a particular area and they are so powerful that they break down silos and leapfrog across all aspects of internal management structures. Another recent emergence is the “Idea Jam” supported by some of the larger organizations like IBM. Let us get together internally and Jam online for a whole weekend.

However, the virtual community doesn’t survive without good leadership. The management, leadership and vision of the community are pivotal to its success. Added to this, the role of the online facilitator (gardener or moderator – there are many other names) plays a major role in keeping the space “alive”. Many companies and organizations are still trying to build online virtual communities for staff without realizing the importance of the role of leadership in the process. Technology is only technology and it is the human element to make it meet the needs of staff.

Where does this tell us and where does it lead to us? Make sure staff fully understand their role and have the necessary skill when participating in online groups and communities. Make sure they have the skills in place and the ability to participate competently, assess the risks and read the situation.

“Virtual community doesn’t survive without good leadership”

Janette Young, Knowledge Futures is a Coach and Learning Facilitator.   Author of Personal Knowledge Capital:  the inner and outer path of knowledge creation in a web world.  Elsevier.