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Community Building as an accelerator for innovation and cultural change

Digital transformation, volatile markets, as well as increasing expectations of employees regarding participation and personal responsibility are often confronted with hierarchical corporate structures. To remain competitive, traditional organizations must reinvent themselves, fundamentally changing their corporate culture and ways they working. The AdEx Partners Agile Col.Labs approach to community building helps to foster collaboration and create a laboratory for innovation and cultural change.

Communities can be setup independently of existing structures. In contrast to traditional forms of organization, hierarchies and departments play no role for the community members. They typically develop a strong sense of belonging and strive for the success of their community, which they drive on their own initiative.

Advantages of Communities

Fast initial implementation, at low cost. Exists next to present organizational units.

Motivating for the employees, as the desire for autonomy, personal responsibility but also belonging is taken up

The best people are brought together across countries and hierarchies

Communities are a laboratory for innovation and cultural change towards more agility and self-responsibility

Higher target-orientation in comparison with informal relationships

The advantages of communities are manifold:

  • Breaking down silo thinking through cross-functional and cross-departmental cooperation
  • Promoting innovation by bringing different perspectives together
  • Developing employees through informal learning in exchange groups
  • Increasing employee motivation through empowerment

Communities take up the basic ideas of co-creation and the Agile Manifesto and can be a laboratory for agility and innovation within traditional organizations. The goal can be an overall organizational transformation or the solution to a specific problem that cannot be successfully addressed within the traditional organizational setup. Examples are:

  • Continuous innovation and business development by building communities for the identification and development of future topics
  • Establishment of an exchange platform for internal expert networks, or even governance organizations
  • Employee development through the creation of learning networks
  • Regular exchange with external partners on topics of common interest

However, communities, expert groups, or 'guilds' are not new instruments. Many companies have been experimenting with these forms of collaboration without achieving the hoped-for results. Possible reasons are:

  • Lack of management commitment meaning that communities are given too little importance, budget, and time
  • Lack of integration within the organizational goals so that the necessary leverage is lacking to successfully bring new ideas into the organization
  • Lack of incentives reduces motivation and commitment after a successful start

How to make community building a success? The AdEx Partners Agile Col.Labs approach

AdEx Partners has successfully established community concepts internally as well as for clients over the past years. The experience gained has been condensed in the AdEx Partners Agile Col.Labs approach, which leads through the phases of building a community. In doing so, we make use of a variety of approaches’ from organizational, team and personal development, as well as New & Virtual Work.

During the first phase of initialization, objectives, sponsors, and community members are identified. The basic framework is built and brought to life together with the future members of the community. Essential success factors in the development of a community concept are:

  1. Formulation of a clear objective for the community
  2. Positioning of the added value/contribution to corporate success
  3. Identification and involvement of the members who form the community

In a second step the working model of the community is practiced and established:

  1. Usage of collaboration tools for communication, information exchange and project work
  2. Consolidation of the role and visibility within the organization
  3. Consistent achievement of objectives

Culture, value models, team and organizational development, acceptance, new use cases and spreading of the working community idea within the company determine the final phase in which the concept can be applied to other parts of the company.

The implementation of a successful community approach thus sets the key success factors of agile working models in which motivated employees act on their own responsibility in accordance with the corporate strategy. Use the power of many to drive the innovation of your business!

The AdEx Partners team for organizational transformations is happy to help you realize new potentials with this approach.

Your contact persons

Jörn Kleinschmidt Transformation Project Management,
Organizational Development, Executive Coaching
Paul Mazur Organisational Development, New Work, Coaching