In re-building the training function, we’ve recommended a move from content delivery to Connecting & Communicating. One role that will likely gain importance is that of Community Manager. As the electric media become embedded in our lives, we will all be constantly connected to many communities. Some of these will overlap.
The role of community manager in an organization will be to manage organizational communities of practice, communities of interest and have an understanding of some of the other communities that touch each of us. In his Valence Theory of Organizations, Mark Federman identified “several specific forms of valence relationships that are enacted by two or more people when they come together to do almost anything; these are economic, social-psychological, identity, knowledge, and ecological.”
Effective collaboration brings all of these aspects into consideration. The communities we belong to address some or all of these valances. Workplace-related communities often address only the knowledge and economic aspects but as human beings we need more.
Because digital media are so easily reproduced and appropriated there are few walls between our online communities. Even our offline communities are getting digitally captured, by someone. Look at how difficult it is to maintain a clear line between LinkedIn and Facebook contacts. Even though many of us use the former for business and the latter for more personal communications, few are able to maintain two distinct groups of contacts. These lines will continue to blur (e.g. Twitter) and our online identities will be a composite of activities in several communities / teams / groups / networks.
The effective community manager will be less of a manager and more a well-connected node in many networks of importance to the organization. David Wilkins takes this a step further and says that the entire business should be run as a community:
It’s not about customer communities or workplace communties. It’s about recognizing and fostering connections, and enabling information flow and information capture from multiple constituents.
If you can incorporate the best of eLearning; Human Performance Technology; Organizational Development; Knowledge Management; Communications and a touch of Marketing, then you may have the makings of a Community Manager. It seems like a pretty exciting place to be for the near future.