Community indicators, indicator species and persausion

Posted by  Shawn Callahan —August 23, 2005
Filed in Collaboration

Green_frog80I love what Nancy is doing jotting down the many things which might indicate “community lives here”—yes, turn it into a book Nancy! I discovered these many interesting posts, all with the ‘community_indicators’ Technorati tag, a week ago. Frustratingly I was unable to find a post describing Nancy’s initial idea of a community indicator – Nancy, can you point me in the right direction?

This discovery came at a serendipitous time. I was thinking about the reasons why we try and measure communities of practice and came to the conclusion that trying to determine the link between community activity and organisational performance is a futile task. So what do we do?

I’m not sure if the following analogy has already been drawn, but community indicators are like indicator species; they indicate the health of a the community/ecosystem. Green frogs are my favourite ecosystem example-albeit an inaccurate and imprecise one. If a green frog is an indicator species of a healthy ecosystem, introducing a gross of green frogs doesn’t improve the ecosystem’s health. The same is true of community indicators.  These indicators help people inside the community understand and nurture their ‘environment’ but, please, please, please don’t turn them into management targets.

Now what about senior decision makers and their valid need to be convinced of the business value of communities of practice—the needs and foibles of these decision makers is well described by David Pollard today. I think the key is to remember the purpose: community leaders must persuade these decision makers and realise objective measurement is impossible. So where do look for ways to persuade these decision makers? I think a good place to start is with the ideas of Howard Gardner’s Changing Minds and Robert Cialdini’s Influence. Neither book is on a typical knowledge management reading list but this should change.

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About  Shawn Callahan

Shawn, author of Putting Stories to Work, is one of the world's leading business storytelling consultants. He helps executive teams find and tell the story of their strategy. When he is not working on strategy communication, Shawn is helping leaders find and tell business stories to engage, to influence and to inspire. Shawn works with Global 1000 companies including Shell, IBM, SAP, Bayer, Microsoft & Danone. Connect with Shawn on:


  1. Nancy White says:

    Hey Shawn. I left a comment earlier, but I guess it never showed up. I have finally posted a bit to define what I mean by community_indicators! Thanks for your patience.
    I quote you liberally — your prod was very helpful to my thinking. THANKS!

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