Exploring the idea of community architecht

I have been doing a fair bit of research and honestly a fair bit of reflection. In fact this blog post is a long time in coming. I warn you now, this will be a long enough post, with limited links and no photos. So you have been warned.

This post is about my own reflections on community, community management, social interaction and maybe an honest look from my perspective at the Enterprise business. But this post is not to focus on me, even though I am talking about my journey.  I am telling my story to see if it resonates out there with other people on their social journey.

This all started for me almost a year ago, delving more into the title of “Community Architect”.  Perhaps it was folly of me to choose the title and then look into it. But I really liked the title. And understanding  that I really don’t know anything ( 🙂 ) and that’s it wrong to have an answer before asking the question, I rolled it back. So I asked my self, if I choose to call myself a “Community Architect”, what does it actually mean?

Something I have learned to do recently, is to actually look at the origins of words. I find it more informative, because we get to see what was the original intention and origin of words. It helps me think. Because I am one of those of those people who needs to look into where things come from. I don’t just accept things at face value anymore.  I just can’t do that.

So lets look at the etymology of the word community:

“late 14c., from Old French comunité “community, commonness, everybody” (Modern French communauté), from Latin communitatem (nominativecommunitas) “community, society, fellowship, friendly intercourse; courtesy, condescension, affability,” from communis “common, public, general, shared by all or many,” (see common (adj.)). Latin communitatem “was merely a noun of quality … meaning ‘fellowship, community of relations or feelings,’ but in med.L. it was, like universitas, used concretely in the sense of ‘a body of fellows or fellow-townsmen’ ” [OED]. 

An Old English word for “community” was gemænscipe “community, fellowship, union, common ownership,” from mæne “common, public, general,” probably composed from the same PIE roots as communis. Community service as a criminal sentence is recorded from 1972, American English. Community college is recorded from 1959.”

That’s a pretty powerful word. and for me it hits on community, society, fellowship, courtesy affability, union.

Now lets look at the etymology of the word architect:

1550s, from Middle French architecte, from Latin architectus, from Greek arkhitekton “master builder, director of works,” from arkhi- “chief” (see archon) +tekton “builder, carpenter” (see texture). An Old English word for it was heahcræftiga “high-crafter.””

Another rather powerful word. I really do have high notions about myself huh? 😉

But putting the words together, it means community builder, from my own perspective anyway. Well that makes sense. In an operational sense and work perspective I have been doing that. But this reflection made me understand what that means. And how as I have moved thorough my community management working roles ,that I have evolved into a community builder. I began to ask myself what do others in this sphere say about being a “Community Architect” ?

Looking around the web I discovered posts on this topic by Lee White. Now you might look at his blog and say “well Mark, Lee was a Community Architect and subsequently lost his job.!”  True, but don’t take anything away from Lee White, because this man gets community. In fact his post on The Practice of Community, really helped me define my own words for talking about what I do. And because I searched “community architect,”  I found his piece on it and understood well what he was trying to achieve.

What Lee White writes about are really key and core to community management and engagement. I can’t disagree with this, from lets say, an operational perspective. But lets look at something here. If I took a position of “Community Architect” in the morning, where is it defined from an IT, online community, perspective?

There is no definition in a formal sense in this business. People would probably take it to mean a “Chief Community Manager” with a subject matter expertise in building and deploying communities. Why would I make such an assertion? To me if I was to assert or pursue such a role and convinced my management to create the role and assign me to it, it would be like going to “special projects” and likely floundering and perhaps end as it did for Lee White. Mr White even pointed to why it would go that way by referring to an article in PC World that said this :

“Gartner predicts that through 2015, 80 percent of social business efforts will not achieve their intended benefits due to inadequate leadership and an overemphasis on technology…”

In the IT business the expectation is deployment and execution. Be it marketing ,support or engineering, its build deploy, deliver, execute, solve the technology. That is the business consensus. People like myself run square into this time and again in this business. Consensus thinking leads to consensus business. And why not? Who the hell am I to argue with it when it seems to prove itself by making money?  And at face value, that appears to be true.

This is,  from my perspective, why social media changed the world, but did not really change it all that much. It bucked against the consensus, and businesses are getting involved in it because everyone else is, but as Gartner points out, not many really get it. And the consensus remains the same. “IT” is about technology fundamentally. Or at least the focus is primarily on that.

So what is the missing piece of being a effective and heard community architect?  Well to me, I like to think that you need to bring in thought leadership.  So what the heck is thought leadership ?

Looking at the  etymology of the word thought we get:

Old English þoht, geþoht “process of thinking, a thought; compassion,” from stem of þencan “to conceive of in the mind, consider” (see think). Cognate with the second element in German Gedächtnis “memory,” Andacht “attention, devotion,” Bedacht “consideration, deliberation.” Second thought “later consideration” is recorded from 1640s. Thought-crime is from “Nineteen Eighty-Four” (1949); thought police is attested from 1945, originally in reference to war-time Japanese Special Higher Police (Tokubetsu Koto Keisatsu).”

And looking at the etymology of the word leader we get:

Old English lædere “one who leads,” agent noun from lædan (see lead (v.)). As a title for the head of an authoritarian state, from 1918 (translating führer, Duce,caudillo, etc.). Meaning “writing or statement meant to begin a discussion or debate” is late 13c.; in modern use often short for leading article (1807) “opinion piece in a British newspaper” (leader in this sense attested from 1837).”

So is a thought leader someone who gets consideration and deliberation started?

Well the Thought Leadership article on Forbes hits the nail on the head for me.

Especially these points:

How To Create Thought Leadership That Drives Results 

  1. Identify the questions your customers are asking. Identify them all. Then prioritize them.
  2. Answer those questions across multiple formats and multiple channels in a way that adds value to your audience. Start with the most important and work your way down the list. All you have to do is have the right content to answer the basic questions.
  3. You gotta “Give to Get”  so do not promote or put registration hurdles in front of your thought leadership content.
  4. Make it interesting. My SAP colleague Timo Elliott calls this the “Return on Interesting” that you get when your content rises above the noise of all the boring, overly-promotional, gated content that is bombarding your audience.  Educate them? Yes. But try to entertain them in the process. Tell stories. Use examples.
  5. Invite customers to participate: I love the idea of interviewing customers to create content or curating content from other sources while adding your own perspective.

But I somewhat disagree with number 2, “Answer those questions.” I would add a conditional acceptance, that I would answer your questions on condition I may answer with a question. That’s not to say I would not provide information upon being asked, but sometimes you need to clarify things and ask people why they want that information or why they want it a certain way. Not to annoy, but to take the emphasis off automatic consensus and get a real consideration of what they are trying to achieve or find out. Thats’ how i see thought thought leadership. Anyone with a rapport in their community can do it, And yes I do have high notions about myself.:) Just kidding, I happily stand at 5ft 2″. 🙂

I consider myself a thought leader. I will also go on the record here  and say I don’t really know anything 🙂 Some thought leader eh? Now I am not saying I am devoid of knowledge. I have knowledge and experience of IT, knowledge management, community management, engagement and leadership, over a career that spans 18 years so far. When I say I don’t really know anything, I mean to say as a thought leader, I don’t know what you need to do, but I can lead you in the thinking necessary to figure that out. Because in the community its not for me to tell you the story you should tell. I can help you tell your own story. Thats what thought leadership is to me. This is an important piece of the puzzle.

I had started by discussing why I wanted to be known as a community architect. I see it now as my vocation. Its not my job and I am not vying for a position with that title. Being a community architect is a vocation to me because of my community involvement in my working life. It’s an evolutionary track.  One that sneaked up on me. But by looking back at the evolution, it makes sense to me. Over 18 years I have been an IT help desk technician, technical trainer, Knowledge Base consultant, technical writer, support community moderator, community manager and a program manager. And even more importantly I was immersed as a community member in these roles.

And this experience prepared me to build  two very impactful community programs at EMC. Those being EMC Ask the Expert Program, and the EMC Elect Advocacy program.  Both have had a huge impact at EMC.

Now I don’t claim to be the kingmaker or the one who made these programs successful. The Community did that. I just happened to know the programs would be very successful. I was the  community architect and through my rapport with the community I used thought leadership to get these programs created. The Community did the rest.

So there you have it. That is my perspective on my social journey. In my humble opinion, being a community architect is vocation, not a job. A big part of that is thought leadership and, in my humble opinion, you won’t change consensus unless you are a part of and engage with community and have a lot of patience and dedication. Here ends the exploration !

if you are looking around for more on community, story telling, and thought leadership you should check out Gary Vaynerchuk . This gentleman is to me the premier example of a thought leader and someone I listen to.  So if you are not impressed with me you can look to him 🙂  And for that matter look to the likes of Amy Lewis, Lauren Malhoit, John Mark Troyer, Matt Brender, Tommy Trogden, Josh Atwell and Jeremiah Dooley to name a few.  Great people and thought leaders.

Please do share your thoughts and comments on this post. And thanks for taking the time to read it.

I would really like to get peoples perspectives on this and their social journey in their career.