How we do it
We use many approaches to cultivate communities of practice and mobilize collective intelligence in organisations. It's been distilled from George Pór's experience of 20 years in designing, hosting and facilitating hundreds of virtual communities, and further tested and formalized during his stay at INSEAD as Visiting Senior Research Fellow, 2001-2002. Community
Design Architecture is our proprietary methodology that underpins all
of our approaches. This page is a brief introduction to its principles and benefits. Other approaches we use are highlighted in the sidebar.
The Community Design Architecture (CDA) is a systemic, highly scalable
and robust methodology for the facilitated co-evolution of communities
of practice, other forms of c-learning communities, and knowledge networks,
with their virtual learning environments.
Developed by Community Intelligence Labs, CDA is an enabler and source
of company-specific frameworks for creating virtual campuses and supporting
learning communities of various size, purpose and operating style.
Virtual campuses can host organizational knowledge ecologies defined
People and their communities in value-creating relationships,
with continuous access to their shared knowledge, both of which
are supported by enabling technologies.
Those components define the four layers of CDA as a methodology for
generating the social, business, knowledge and technology architectures
of virtual teams, learning communities, and their networks. The four layers
interact, cross-fertilize, and feed one another.
Social Architecture – the network of relationships, collaboration, communication and coordination, with supporting agreements, principles, metrics, leadership roles, decision making etc, need to create open and trusting interactions.
Knowledge Architecture – the body of available knowledge (intellectual capital) to be upgraded to meet new challenges, by orientation, exploration, reflection, sense-making, and shared memory.
Business Architecture - financing, attracting and allocating resources (two-way value propositions), business model to ensure sustainability.
Technology Architecture – an advanced online environment with a wide range of tools to support collaboration, communication and coordination in an efficient, effective and enjoyable way.
Those layers may strengthen or weaken each other, depending on how well
they're designed for mutual enhancement and the emergence of multi-dimensional
synergies. For instance:
the good health and vibrancy of a community's knowledge ecosystem*
is a key factor in defining the success rate of its business ecosystem
( business architecture).
What is the source of a robust knowledge ecosystem? High-trust relationships
in and among the teams and communities, and the practices which produce
this high-trust.. (social architecture).
* The concept of the knowledge ecosystem was popularised
widely by Knowledge
Ecology Fair '98 , and elaborated on in George Pór's article
Systemic Wisdom through Knowledge Ecology."
"The science and art of architecture lie in skilfully relating
parts to a greater whole, creating a form uniquely appropriate for the
exercise of a specific set of functions." (from The Web
of Inclusion: a New Architecture for Building Great Organizations,
by Sally Helgesen).
A well-designed architectural framework should let the community:
Reduce mistakes due to approaches to
community design, that don't account for the complexity of what is required
to cultivate coherent and productive conversations in cyberspace.
Orient evaluation of choices and tradeoffs among numerous design
options, guided by a small set of generative design principles.
Coordinate collaboration between design team, community members,
sponsor, facilitator and all those who have a stake in the community's
Foster co-evolution of self-organizing "emergence"
and deliberative "design," mirroring the co-evolution of the
community with its enabling architectures.
Establish coherence of design, by cycling through the key design
dimensions, in re-iterative loops.
Chart an optimal course of the project, that takes into account
the interdependence of the four design areas--community, knowledge,
business, and technology--and their systemic interdependence
Focus attention and other resources, first, on the critical
path of design.
The CDA methodology is built on 4 inter-related design principles: Designing
for Emergence, Transformational Measure, Innovation Focus and Enabling
Productive Conversations. Those principles and the corresponding practices
serve as attractors of higher-order communal capabilities.
Designing for Emergence
Communities are complex adaptive social systems characterized by the
phenomenon of “emergence.” It means that they can produce surprising
new capabilities through the differentiation and integration of their
members' capabilities. They cannot be planned or “engineered” like a
The “designing for emergence” principle is concerned with ensuring
that all enablers of emergence are given proper attention throughout
the design process. They include all tools and processes that foster:
- spontaneity and individual and group creativity
- member initiatives and experimentation
- various forms of member-to-member interactions
- opportunities for group formation at the lowest possible transaction
A key process for fostering the emergence of new meaning and solutions
in communities is the re-combination of ideas born in productive conversations.
That re-combination occurs mainly in conversations.
The principle of "productive conversations" is concerned
with designing into the system the capacity to sustain networks of coherent
dialogues and productive inquiries involving any number of members and
their communities, across distance and time.
"Across time" implies that there should be explicit provision
to promote the synergy of real-time (synchronous) and delayed-time (asynchronous)
dialogues, which is the richest source of emergence through idea re-combination.
Design is a matter of choice; it's the artful use of freedom and constraints
for maximizing the communities' and their members' potential to create
value with the designed environment.
The “transformational design” principle is concerned with ensuring
that all tools, structures, and processes are optimised for continually
meeting the user communities evolving learning needs and aspirations.
To meet that requirement, transformational design has to be robust,
flexible, and scalable.
"If innovation is not widely understood to be the community’s
lifeblood, the pace of member acquisition will slow and membership will
slowly erode." (Net Gain: Expanding Markets through Virtual Communities,
by John Hagel III and Arthur G. Armstrong)
The principle of "innovation focus" is concerned with 4
architectural layers as 4 domains of innovation, and with their cross-pollination.
The measure of innovation value of each is in the value of new possibilities
that they can open to the community.
For example, good design brings social and knowledge innovation into
interplay with one another and with business and technical innovation.
That interplay will lead to more consistently high returns than environments
strong in only one or two dimensions of innovation.
Therefore, virtual learning environments should be optimised--with
effective, real-time feedback loops--for synergy across the social,
knowledge, business, and technical layers of the architecture.
The reach and agility of a community's or organization's nervous system*
(its network of productive conversations) is a key determining factor
of its evolutionary fitness: its capability to evolve and continually
A key measure of evolutionary fitness is the speed at which better
work and learning practices come into being and spread through the organization's
knowledge ecosystem which is intricately interwoven with the other three
* A detailed presentation of the "organizational
nervous system" concept can be found in "The
Quest for Collective Intelligence" by George Pór,
published in the anthology "Community
Building: Renewing Spirit and Learning in Business", New
Leaders Press, 1995.
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© Copyright, 2001, Community Intelligence Labs