Lessons from Move­ment Mak­ers: What So­cial Upheaval Teaches Us About En­gage­ment

To­day’s most suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies have strong net­works of highly-en­gaged peo­ple on their side — a strat­egy that so­cial move­ments have been per­fect­ing for decades.

Rotman Management Magazine - - CONTENTS - by Char­lie Brown

Suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies have strong net­works of en­gaged peo­ple on their side — a strat­egy that so­cial move­ments have been per­fect­ing for decades.

Xiaomi, the world’s fourthAFTER JUST SEVEN YEARS IN EX­IS­TENCE, largest smart­phone maker, has carved out a suc­cess­ful, in­no­va­tive space in a cat­e­gory dom­i­nated by mega-sized tech firms; Go­pro makes rugged cam­eras for out­door use that have earned it a fer­vent fol­low­ing, even though it es­sen­tially repli­cates a fea­ture your phone al­ready has; and Cross­fit has en­joyed ex­plo­sive growth for more than a decade, de­spite a steady stream of crit­i­cal press since its in­cep­tion. How did these com­pa­nies pull it off? The pre­vail­ing ex­pla­na­tion for such suc­cesses has leaned to­ward in­tan­gi­ble qual­i­ties like pur­pose and cul­ture. I am in­clined to agree. Com­pa­nies are com­posed of peo­ple, af­ter all, who spend most of their time com­mu­ni­cat­ing with other peo­ple. The pur­pose that unites them, and the cul­ture that shapes their ac­tions, are cru­cial in­flu­ences rarely dis­cussed in busi­ness plans and quar­terly re­ports.

Let’s as­sume you’ve read the same ar­ti­cles I have, and you jumped on the pur­pose-driven band­wagon years ago. Where ex­actly did that lead? Did you gather up­per man­age­ment to brain­storm a bold, au­then­tic state­ment of pur­pose? Have you given mo­ti­va­tional talks ex­plain­ing your com­pany’s be­liefs and why they matter? Did it make any dif­fer­ence?

This is the prob­lem with pur­pose: It’s not enough to have one; you have to put it into prac­tice — which means turn­ing an ab­stract con­cept into con­crete ac­tions. Not sur­pris­ingly, the ef­fi­ciency- and met­rics-driven world of mod­ern busi­ness isn’t well equipped to do this. So­cial move­ments, on the other hand, ex­cel at it.

Think about the up­heavals that have trans­formed the cul­tural land­scape over the past 50 years: En­vi­ron­men­tal­ism, civil rights and gen­der equal­ity at the global level; or fo­cused, regional move­ments like the em­brace of mar­ket cap­i­tal­ism in East­ern Europe and sub-sa­ha­ran Africa in the 90s. These move­ments don’t have big mar­ket­ing bud­gets and of­ten strug­gle to at­tract en­dorse­ments from celebri­ties or es­tab­lished po­lit­i­cal groups. What they do have is a clear, co­her­ent pur­pose. More im­por­tant, they have mech­a­nisms for turn­ing pur­pose into ac­tions that trans­form their net­work — and ul­ti­mately, the world.

It’s not com­mon prac­tice in the busi­ness world to look for point­ers from Black Lives Matter or the Idle No More First Na­tions move­ment — but it re­ally should be. With­out for­mal chan­nels for pub­li­ciz­ing, mo­ti­vat­ing and di­rect­ing the ef­forts of their net­works, these move­ments have learned to op­ti­mize pur­pose in much the same way that cor­po­ra­tions op­ti­mize cap­i­tal.

Through projects with dozens of client part­ners in­volv­ing lit­er­ally mil­lions of re­la­tion­ships, we have found three re­cur­ring prin­ci­ples in al­most ev­ery ef­fec­tive so­cial move­ment we’ve ex­am­ined — and they are echoed by those few com­mer­cial or­ga­ni­za­tions that have truly turned their com­mu­ni­ties into a com­pet­i­tive as­set.

PRIN­CI­PLE 1: Shared Pur­pose

Ashoka is a non-profit that has been en­abling and fund­ing so­cial en­trepreneur­ship since its found­ing by Bill Dray­ton in 1980. You are prob­a­bly fa­mil­iar with the con­cept of so­cial en­trepreneur­ship, which has trans­formed the way we view de­vel­op­ment ef­forts — away from the ex­clu­sive do­main of gov­ern­ment-funded mega projects and to­wards smaller, smarter projects that lever­age ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy and lo­cal re­sources.

It’s hard to over­state how fun­da­men­tal Ashoka was in spark­ing this fire. Rather than pur­sue only its own so­cial in­no­va­tion projects, it cre­ated a net­work of in­ter­ested, tal­ented en­trepreneurs and or­ga­ni­za­tions, giv­ing them the cred­i­bil­ity of as­so­ci­a­tion with an es­tab­lished brand, and link­ing them to one an­other to share ideas and in­for­ma­tion. The net­work in­cludes well-known lead­ers like Grameen Bank founder Muham­mad Yunus and No­bel Peace Prize re­cip­i­ent Kailash Sat­yarthi. Ashoka also be­came an ac­cess point for fund­ing, help­ing to launch and even­tu­ally spin off dozens of en­ti­ties that have in­flu­enced pol­icy and busi­ness prac­tices around the world.

None of this could have oc­curred with­out a shared pur­pose. In the case of Ashoka, that pur­pose is ‘Every­one a change­maker’ — the be­lief that en­trepreneurs are not the he­roes, but the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of a sup­port­ive com­mu­nity, and that ev­ery per­son has the ca­pa­bil­ity to en­act pos­i­tive change, if they are suf­fi­ciently in­formed and en­abled.

A shared pur­pose is al­to­gether dif­fer­ent from a mis­sion state­ment drafted by a se­nior com­mit­tee in a cor­po­rate meet­ing room. It’s some­thing you dis­cover within a com­mu­nity, not some­thing you im­pose upon one. And be­cause every­one within the ex­tended Ashoka net­work buys into it — from loosely-linked solo en­trepreneurs to long-time col­lab­o­ra­tors-turned-em­ploy­ees, there is a level of au­to­matic trust within the net­work, and a clear un­der­stand­ing that every­one is aim­ing for the same goal.

While it might not be im­me­di­ately ob­vi­ous, con­sumer elec­tron­ics pow­er­house Xiaomi has ben­e­fit­ted from some of these same in­sights — specifically, the power of a strong shared pur­pose and the value of a well-linked net­work. Xiaomi was built around a be­lief that cus­tomers should be vi­tal part­ners in new­prod­uct de­vel­op­ment. The com­pany em­ploys de­vel­op­ment pro­cesses that trans­late user feed­back into new prod­uct fea­tures in a matter of weeks. This ex­traor­di­nar­ily-tight link­age stems from a shared pur­pose that sets Xiaomi apart from com­peti­tors: A be­lief that user com­mu­ni­ties are wiser than de­sign­ers in the long run, and that in­no­va­tion comes from real-world ex­pe­ri­ence.

Xiaomi calls its pur­pose ‘In­no­va­tion every­one can en­joy.’ The pur­pose is some­what top-down — hav­ing been es­tab­lished at the com­pany’s in­cep­tion — and it es­sen­tially fil­ters the kinds of em­ploy­ees who choose to work there.

While Xiaomi is a mas­sively suc­cess­ful seven-year-old, for­profit Chi­nese com­pany, and Ashoka is an Amer­i­can non-profit push­ing 40, their unique state­ments of pur­pose have three qual­i­ties in com­mon.

• Both state­ments are con­cise: ‘Every­one a change­maker’ and ‘In­no­va­tion every­one can en­joy’ are sim­ple enough to fit on a T-shirt;

• They’re both re­la­tional, expressing a vi­sion that is larger than just the suc­cess of the or­ga­ni­za­tion. You can be­lieve in so­cial en­trepreneur­ship as a group en­deav­our, for ex­am­ple, even in the ab­sence of a non-profit like Ashoka to en­cour­age it; and

• Both pur­poses are time­less, as rel­e­vant now as they were a decade ago, or (very likely) a decade down the road.

For Xiaomi, shared pur­pose has led to some un­prece­dented prac­tices around prod­uct de­vel­op­ment and mar­ket­ing strat­egy. The com­pany’s in­tensely-com­mu­nal ap­proach is for­mal­ized in a hi­er­ar­chy of cus­tomer en­gage­ment: The more ac­tive a cus­tomer is in at­tend­ing meet-ups and cri­tiquing new of­fer­ings, the more ac­cess they get to early re­leases and lim­ited-run prod­ucts. At the high­est lev­els of en­gage­ment, cus­tomers can even be­come em­ploy­ees, fur­ther ce­ment­ing the tight bonds be­tween users, de­sign­ers and de­vel­op­ers that has made Xiaomi such a break­out suc­cess.

‘In­no­va­tion every­one can en­joy’ also gen­er­ates ex­tra­or­di­nary buzz among the tens of mil­lions of Chi­nese cus­tomers who count them­selves among Xiaomi’s ac­tive sup­port­ers — so much buzz, in fact, that Xiaomi no longer uses tra­di­tional ad­ver­tis­ing to pro­mote its prod­ucts, re­ly­ing in­stead on so­cial me­dia ex­po­sure and word of mouth. This ef­fec­tively re­places the trans­ac­tional re­la­tion­ship be­tween con­sumer and brand with a more egal­i­tar­ian bar­gain: Cus­tomers fol­low Xiaomi’s fre­quent re­leases, spread the word and of­fer high-qual­ity feed­back, and Xiaomi acts on that feed­back quickly and faith­fully, pre­sent­ing new it­er­a­tions back to the net­work as some­thing they can ‘own’.

Be­yond just hav­ing a shared pur­pose with their re­spec­tive com­mu­ni­ties, both Ashoka and Xiaomi have em­braced, cod­i­fied and broad­cast that pur­pose. This means that ev­ery pol­icy

In the busi­ness world, it’s not com­mon prac­tice to look for point­ers from Black Lives Matter or the Idle No More move­ment; but it re­ally should be.

de­ci­sion at Ashoka has to first pass muster as some­thing that sup­ports the idea of joint en­trepreneur­ship; and at Xiaomi, em­ploy­ees are told on Day One to treat cus­tomers as their friends and fam­ily.

PRIN­CI­PLE 2: Clear Roles

Not every­one within an or­ga­ni­za­tion will act on a pur­pose in the same way; nor would you want them to. To op­ti­mize the ac­tions taken by net­work mem­bers, you have to know what they are good at, and how they de­fine suc­cess within the group. This en­tails un­der­stand­ing a bit more about in­di­vid­ual roles — an­other area where so­cial move­ments are way ahead of the rest of us.

In 2012, we were in­vited by the Knight Foun­da­tion to help bet­ter un­der­stand the roles that black men play in civic lead­er­ship, es­pe­cially in U.S. cities with large African-amer­i­can pop­u­la­tions, such as Philadel­phia and Detroit. In sit­u­a­tions like these, it is tempt­ing to iden­tify lead­ers and in­no­va­tors by look­ing for ti­tles and for­mal achieve­ments — con­fer­ence speak­ers, po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tives and so on. But within so­cial move­ments, the most con­nected and re­spected mem­bers may have no ti­tle at all.

To find them, we had to talk to peo­ple — in this case, hun­dreds of lo­cal cit­i­zens, over the course of a few months. And we dis­cov­ered that, while some­times for­mal recog­ni­tion mir­rored com­mu­nity stand­ing, they were just as of­ten com­pletely un­linked. Af­ter pro­cess­ing these in­ter­views and map­ping each city’s in­for­mal civic lead­er­ship net­work, we dis­cov­ered that most mem­bers were work­ing in one of six spe­cific roles.

• The Sharer, who quickly pro­cesses in­for­ma­tion, spots emer­gent themes and dis­sem­i­nates them to the net­work.

• The Con­nec­tor, who ac­tively seeks out the ca­pa­bil­i­ties and needs in oth­ers, then matches the wants with the haves.

• The Cu­ra­tor, who sorts through new re­sources and op­por­tu­ni­ties to find the ones most use­ful and ap­pro­pri­ate for the net­work.

• The In­no­va­tor, who shakes things up and ex­per­i­ments, with an eye to­ward un­tried so­lu­tions to long-stand­ing prob­lems.

• The Builder, who an­a­lyzes dif­fer­ent op­tions, spots op­por­tu­ni­ties and risks, and is gen­er­ally the first one to emerge with a co­her­ent, ac­tion­able plan.

• The Sto­ry­teller, who mo­ti­vates other mem­bers of the net­work by lis­ten­ing to cur­rent con­cerns and feel­ings, and or­ches­trat­ing them into durable nar­ra­tives. In the Detroit and Philadel­phia com­mu­ni­ties where we spent time, Sto­ry­tellers were es­pe­cially in­flu­en­tial, able to ar­tic­u­late the is­sues of a par­tic­u­lar group or neigh­bour­hood and tell them in a way that res­onated and mo­ti­vated oth­ers. These are the peo­ple who are ea­ger to get on stage or in front of a cam­era when it’s time to spread the word. We also came to rec­og­nize the im­por­tance of Con­nec­tors: The peo­ple who know every­one else and keep a men­tal file of who’s avail­able and in­ter­ested in do­ing what — in­dis­pens­able when you’re try­ing to pull to­gether an event or start a project.

These types of role def­i­ni­tions are vastly more use­ful than typ­i­cal de­mo­graph­ics like age, ed­u­ca­tion level, in­come or even (in many cases) po­si­tion within a for­mal so­cial struc­ture. They’re more ac­cu­rate be­cause they’re as­pi­ra­tional — they de­scribe what the per­son is ca­pa­ble of do­ing within the com­mu­nity and what they want to be rec­og­nized for.

This role-driven process led to the cre­ation of Black Male En­gage­ment ( BME), a so­cial-change ini­tia­tive that has grown in the past five years to nearly a mil­lion mem­bers across sev­eral U.S. cities. Es­tab­lish­ing and grow­ing BME took sev­eral phases over the course of more than a year, but each phase suc­ceeded by lever­ag­ing the spe­cific roles we had iden­ti­fied early in our re­search.

Ev­ery or­ga­ni­za­tion has as­pi­ra­tional roles, whether or not they are ex­plic­itly de­fined. One com­pany that has de­fied tremen­dous odds largely on the strength of its com­mu­nity is Go­pro. De­spite hav­ing dra­mat­i­cally dif­fer­ent aims, the way they’ve iden­ti­fied and em­pow­ered dif­fer­ent roles within their net­work has sur­pris­ing sim­i­lar­i­ties to BME.

The Go­pro team rec­og­nized early on that the peo­ple us­ing its cam­eras to record them­selves snow­board­ing, surfing and moun­tain bik­ing were also go­ing on­line to trade videos of their ex­ploits, leave com­ments and of­fer tips and sug­ges­tions: All of the hall­marks of an emer­gent com­mu­nity. So, shortly af­ter launch­ing its first de­vice in 2004, it took the un­ortho­dox step of in­vest­ing in the user com­mu­nity it­self: They made it easy to set up a profile on their on­line video-shar­ing plat­form, and eas­ier still to up­load con­tent, pro­vid­ing video host­ing at a time when this was not a triv­ial un­der­tak­ing.

So far, this is pretty ob­vi­ous com­mu­nity-sup­port stuff: Make it easy for users to share their ex­pe­ri­ences, and they’ll bend over back­wards to make you look good. But ex­am­ine what hap­pens next, through the lens (no pun in­tended) of com­mu­nity roles, and Go­pro looks smarter than the av­er­age de­vice-maker.

For one thing, Go­pro started ad­dress­ing the needs of the users we call In­no­va­tors, who want noth­ing more than to use tech­nolo­gies and plat­forms in a novel way. So within the first cou­ple of years, Go­pro in­tro­duced a wider range of cam­era mounts, help­ing users strap a cam­era to their chest, mount it to their dash­board, af­fix it to an air­plane wing or even strap it to their dog. Go­pro In­no­va­tors are early adopters, and were among the first en­thu­si­as­tic users of the selfie stick. For a com­pany founded on ex­treme sports, it might seem odd to cel­e­brate a video of a lit­tle kid’s pool party, but that’s what In­no­va­tors were do­ing, and by en­abling and pub­li­ciz­ing their videos, Go­pro has continued to grow its user base, year af­ter year.

For both Go­pro and BME, rec­og­niz­ing the di­ver­sity of in­ter­ests and ca­pa­bil­i­ties within their com­mu­ni­ties has cre­ated a real com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage. By lis­ten­ing closely to what peo­ple were al­ready in­ter­ested in do­ing — and putting money and ef­fort into en­abling those de­sires — both groups man­aged to build com­mu­ni­ties that con­tinue to grow, largely through the ef­forts of mem­bers rather than or­ga­niz­ers.

PRIN­CI­PLE 3: The Right Re­wards

The last prin­ci­ple con­cerns the ways in which mem­bers are re­warded for do­ing things that help grow the com­mu­nity and/or busi­ness. While their par­tic­i­pa­tion goals are quite dif­fer­ent — help­ing a class­room buy com­put­ers or lab sup­plies, ver­sus los­ing weight or do­ing a pull-up— both Donors Choose and Cross­fit have mas­tered the art of mean­ing­ful re­wards.

Donors Choose is en­tirely web-based. Like many non-prof­its, it per­suades vis­i­tors to part with hard-earned cash by show­ing a very real need among tar­get re­cip­i­ents — in­di­vid­ual class­rooms, in this case — and demon­strat­ing how ef­fec­tively their do­nated dol­lars will be used. It dif­fers from other non-prof­its, though, in the way that it dis­trib­utes those do­na­tions and re­wards donors for their gen­eros­ity.

The com­pany doesn’t dis­trib­ute T-shirts or tote bags as thank yous. In­stead, it of­fers recog­ni­tion and ex­pe­ri­ences unique to donors’ in­ter­ests. Be­cause each do­na­tion is tied to a spe­cific class­room’s needs (‘My stu­dents need six ipads to par­tic­i­pate in a dis­tance learn­ing pro­gram’), teach­ers are able to fol­low up with photos and videos show­ing the re­sults in ac­tion — and of­ten back them up with let­ters of thanks from the stu­dents them­selves.

Donors also re­ceive recog­ni­tion from peers within the net­work. Any project that re­ceives fund­ing posts the names and pro­files of those who made it pos­si­ble (pend­ing donor per­mis- sion), and en­cour­ages in­ter­ac­tion among them. The re­sult is an in­stant on­line com­mu­nity of like-minded phi­lan­thropists, who con­grat­u­late and sup­port each other and who may end up form­ing re­la­tion­ships of their own, deep­en­ing their con­nec­tion to the or­ga­ni­za­tion and driv­ing loy­alty and en­gage­ment.

Cross­fit, by con­trast, is de­fi­antly ana­log: A typ­i­cal gym con­tains no TVS or dig­i­tally-con­nected ex­er­cise equip­ment, or even mir­rors on the walls. The most high-tech de­vice is gen­er­ally a timer. And while most Cross­fit-af­fil­i­ated gyms have web­sites, they tend to be lim­ited to a blog list­ing the week’s work­outs, and per­haps photos of coaches and mem­bers.

Like Donors Choose, Cross­fit favours in­trin­sic re­wards that arise from par­tic­i­pa­tion in the com­mu­nity over ex­trin­sic ones be­stowed by higher-ups. Both or­ga­ni­za­tions have cre­ated a dense hi­er­ar­chy of re­wards that ac­knowl­edge con­struc­tive ac­tion at ev­ery level. This ap­proach re­flects a new un­der­stand­ing that ma­te­rial re­wards aren’t the most ef­fec­tive way to build long-last­ing re­la­tion­ships with your com­mu­nity. In fact, there are three dis­tinct cat­e­gories of re­ward:

1. Ma­te­rial re­wards are the type most peo­ple think of first: A

cash prize, a plaque, a T-shirt, an en­graved watch. 2. Ex­pe­ri­en­tial re­wards are those that give the re­cip­i­ents ac­cess to an ex­pe­ri­ence they might oth­er­wise never have, whether that’s meet­ing a per­sonal hero, at­tend­ing a class or sem­i­nar, or even the op­por­tu­nity to tackle a chal­lenge only avail­able to the uniquely qual­i­fied. 3. Rep­u­ta­tional re­wards con­sist purely of recog­ni­tion by

peers, lead­ers or other com­mu­nity mem­bers.

Cross­fit of­fers ma­te­rial re­wards, but just barely: Some gyms hand out spe­cial T-shirts to long-stand­ing mem­bers, but its ex­pe­ri­en­tial re­wards are far more sig­nif­i­cant, and be­gin ac­cru­ing the day you first walk into the gym. Ev­ery work­out is an hour­long group ef­fort led by a coach, and mu­tual en­cour­age­ment is the de­fault. The more-ex­pe­ri­enced mem­bers of­ten fin­ish ear­lier and spend the last few min­utes shout­ing en­cour­age­ment to those who are strug­gling.

There is also a clear pro­gres­sion for prac­ti­cally ev­ery ex­er­cise, whether it’s a lift, mea­sured in pounds, or a pull-up, which comes with a tiered pro­gres­sion of in­creas­ing dif­fi­culty, start­ing with sim­ply hang­ing from the bar. Be­cause of this, and be­cause of Cross­fit’s re­liance on data and doc­u­men­ta­tion, ev­ery im­prove­ment be­comes cause for cel­e­bra­tion: Any­one set­ting a

For these com­pa­nies, rec­og­niz­ing the di­ver­sity of in­ter­ests and ca­pa­bil­i­ties within their com­mu­ni­ties has cre­ated a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage.

per­sonal record for a par­tic­u­lar lift writes it promi­nently on a white­board, and a first strict pull-up or push-up is cause for cheers through­out the room (and of­ten a so­cial me­dia post). Such rep­u­ta­tional re­wards, es­pe­cially when be­stowed by re­spected peers, are mo­ti­vat­ing in a way that no branded free­bie can match.

What these two or­ga­ni­za­tions both of­fer is re­wards that come from within the com­mu­nity, not from an author­ity fig­ure. Mea­sure­ment and trans­parency are cen­tral to both, and their par­tic­i­pants abil­ity to track their progress — whether as donors or as ath­letes — cre­ates am­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties for greater com­mu­nity en­gage­ment.

In­creas­ing En­gage­ment in Your Net­work

If there is a com­mon theme to the above three prin­ci­ples, it is lis­ten­ing. The or­ga­ni­za­tions de­scribed herein have all suc­ceeded be­cause they are sen­si­tive to their mem­bers’ needs and as­pi­ra­tions. They are ac­tive re­spon­ders more than they are bold in­sti­ga­tors. If your or­ga­ni­za­tion is hop­ing to replicate their suc­cess, it has to start with lis­ten­ing.

Start by ex­plor­ing the net­work you al­ready have: cus­tomers, em­ploy­ees, ven­dors and other stake­hold­ers. What would they say their shared pur­pose is, be­yond sim­ply mak­ing sales or in­creas­ing share­holder value? The an­swer may present it­self as soon as the ques­tion is framed, but it’s more likely you’ll need to do some dig­ging. This can en­tail a se­ries of ca­sual con­ver­sa­tions over lunch, if you’re a small, tight-knit en­tity, or it may take a more for­mal process of in­ter­views, sur­veys and se­condary re­search.

You should also make a clear-eyed com­par­i­son be­tween the shared pur­poses you dis­cover and your own busi­ness ob­jec­tives. It’s un­likely that your net­work’s un­der­ly­ing de­sire is sim­ply to help you achieve your busi­ness goals. More likely, they’d rather you help them with their goals first. So it may be that you fo­cus in on the pur­pose (or pur­poses) that best over­lap with your busi­ness aims. This need not be a dra­matic sac­ri­fice. Of­ten, those who are drawn to your or­ga­ni­za­tion per­ceive a pur­pose that is al­ready quite ap­pro­pri­ate.

Once you’ve iden­ti­fied that pur­pose, how would you go about cod­i­fy­ing it? di­rec­tive? And what im­me­di­ate im­pli­ca­tions does your or­ga­ni­za­tion’s pur­pose have for day-to-day pol­icy?

Dis­cov­er­ing the roles within your net­work that can ac­tu­ally help you to­ward your busi­ness goals re­quires equal sen­si­tiv­ity. Are ex­per­i­men­ta­tion and in­no­va­tion cru­cial to your suc­cess? Pay at­ten­tion to who is gen­er­ally lead­ing these ef­forts: They are your In­no­va­tors, and they need sup­port. If your suc­cess hangs upon so­cial me­dia ex­po­sure, fig­ure out who within your net­work (em­ploy­ees, cus­tomers or oth­ers) are al­ready shar­ing sto­ries — your Sto­ry­tellers and Shar­ers — and find out why they do this, and what they need more of. Bet­ter yet, en­cour­age them to talk to each other, and set aside some re­sources for them to do more of what they’re al­ready do­ing.

As for re­wards, there are a lot more op­tions out there than an end-of-year bonus or a Star­bucks card. Con­sider what struc­tures you might cre­ate that in­her­ently bring recog­ni­tion to ac­tive com­mu­nity mem­bers, whether they work for you or not.

If you can suc­cess­fully ad­dress these steps, you’ll have an ac­tual strat­egy to evolve the re­la­tion­ships you have with your en­tire net­work, el­e­vat­ing them from purely trans­ac­tional to gen­uinely en­gaged. Re­mem­ber, your or­ga­ni­za­tion’s re­la­tion­ships aren’t just a com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage: They are your great­est and most re­new­able as­set.

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