The nature of work has continuously changed over time. Factories and manufacturing are no longer where most of us work. We work in offices, at home, and often remote from our team mates. Today, much of what we do at work is networked via digital technologies.
Here is a useful model of working smarter by connecting our work teams with our professional communities and networks. It is based on three practices: seeking knowledge, sensemaking, and sharing our knowledge, or simply put — seek > sense > share.
Work Teams — resolve to solve
Few of us work alone, as we need to collaborate with others to get work done. Our teams are structured for the tasks we need to do and usually someone is in charge. Collaboration means working together for a common objective, often provided by a manager or a customer. Solving problems together is the focus of most teams.
Professional Networks — connect & be curious
In a networked world we need to know what is happening beyond our work teams or we become near-sighted. Innovation comes from the edges and our professional networks can help connect with others. Networking expert — Valdis Krebs — says that we should connect on our similarities, and benefit from our differences. In networks we cooperate, which is sharing freely with no expectation of direct rewards. It’s like posting a how-to video or writing a blog post. We give freely, expecting that others will do the same to help make the network smarter.
But how can we connect all those interesting things we find in our loose networks with what we need to get done in our work teams?
Communities of Practice — challenge assumptions
Professional communities of practice are safe spaces where we can share what we know with people we trust. In communities there are rules of behaviour. We may not know a person but we are likely to know someone who does. Communities are often open by invitation only, to fellow professionals. One definition of a professional is “anyone who does work that cannot be standardized easily and who continuously welcomes challenges at the cutting edge of his or her expertise.” You know you are in a community of practice if it changes your practice. If you are not in one, find one, or even start one up. What is your profession that you want get better at?
We integrate these separate but connected spaces by seeking connections, sensemaking, and sharing appropriately. Working smarter means connecting in networks and curiously seeking knowledge. We challenge our assumptions and continuously improve our professional knowledge and skills in our communities. This informs our work and as we learn through our work we share lessons and practices. In this way, everyone helps to make their networks, communities, and teams smarter.