How to Nurture COPs
Because COPs are essentially gathering of people, vigour among COP participants is very important. However, we cannot force people to be actively involved or to design active communities artificially. As a practical matter, the largest reason why COPs fail is the lack of vigor to attract and keep participants actively involved. Many successful COPs, instead, nurture the seedbed of activities through artful and flexible design, although COPs themselves are spontaneous and organic. The following steps show the basic principles of designing and sustaining active COPs.
1. Find opportunities around strong
COPs usually work well when a strong need for sharing common interest/passion/skills/knowledge exists: for example, common technical expertise among adjusters or success/failure experiences of sales agents. You have to find such key opportunities to connect people and share knowledge that can make a difference. In other words, this is pre-setting of the domain of the COP that attracts people with common interest or needs.
2. Invite passionate people and take
in their thoughts
To design a good COP, you need key people (two to three people are quite enough to start) who will play the role of steward in the COP. They are usually very passionate (and often knowledgeable) on the subject that is the central focus of the COP. Then you discuss the COP design with them with the following focuses:
• What is the strategic context of the COP?
• What is the key knowledge to share and create?
• Who are potential participants benefiting from and contributing to the COP?
• What are key activities that sustain vigour of the COP?
• Where can community members physically (and virtually) interact?
• What are key values for both the organisation and participants?
… a relationship of trust between employees nurtured through COPs would contribute
to increased employee satisfaction and … help retain a
valuable workforce, which is often one of several key issues
for the insurance industry.
These key questions are closely connected to the three elements of COPs: domain, community and activities.
3. Launch the COP with socialising events
The development of any COP always starts at people’s social relationship. If you do not build trust between participants, the COP will not work, even if it has rationale for sharing common knowledge. One easy way is to use an existing social network, which often becomes a core group of the COP, and expand it through face-to-face meeting.
4. Create results through activities and share the stories
After launching the COP, you need key activities that produce results, as well as sustain vigour of the community. The activities vary: these could be codifying tacit key knowledge shared among veteran workers or sharing good experience through storytelling sessions. The important part is that you need to establish the first small result from the COP in order to prove its value. Then you can expand the activities and attract more people by telling the success story.