In starting any community of practice, the first objective is to help the members recognise the value they will get from being and working together. Often we will help organisations kick their communities off with a work shop that has a number of objectives but perhaps the most important is to foster deeper connections among the potential members. Here are some of the activities I’ve used to do that. Would love to hear about activities you have found useful.
- asking participants to bring to the workshop one thing that other participants might value. It might be the description of a tool, tips, data, stories. We would pin this to a wall encouraging people to ask questions and talk about their artefacts—great triggers for conversation
- interviewing key members before the workshop to better understand key issues, potential hot topics and what they feel are the enablers and blockers for the community
- run a sociometry exercise where you arrange people physically in a room according to a set of questions ranging from, How far did you travel to get to this meeting? How much experience do you have as a HR professional? to Who do you collaborate with? or Who do you go to to solve difficult problems? With these latter questions the participants place their hand on the shoulder of the person they identify as their answer. An instant social network forms. A terrific exercise to help people get a sense of the knowledge and social networks already in place.
- conduct appreciative interviews with people you don’t know well. This process is a one-on-one interview where each person talks about three highlights in their career and the listener retells their stories back to them. Then they swap places. This is always a memorable and impactful experience.
- build a social network diagram on a wall of the participants with post-its and string. Another way to see what networks already exist and for the group to see where the potential is for the community.
- take photos of each person to be displayed on the online directory. If an online directory doesn’t already exist for the community then it’s a good idea to build one. People find it easier to remember facts about a person if they have a picture of their face. With a digital camera we can snap everyone’s photo to provide the basis for the directory. You have to make this a fun exercise so as not to scare people off and best to tell everyone of the plan before they arrive—no surprises when it comes to photos.
- Good conversations around topics that matter. We like to use the World Café technique to facilitate a set of conversations around the hot topics. We encourage people to retell their stories in these small group conversations as this also helps to foster relationships.
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: