What is the driving power behind a successful community?

By Seb Haire, guest writer at ProFinda.

As innately social creatures, we thrive being part of communities. Since the dark ages we have belonged to a tribe, community, grouping, company, town, county, country, region. It’s something we take great pride in, get passionate about and go to war over.

We join communities to help drive growth, work together, learn, network and progress. In the working world they have become the norm. We join forums, professional bodies and go to networking nights. I have set several up, am a huge fan of the power of a community but do have a personal issue with how they are developing. I believe that they are losing their power due to one key ingredient: relevance. Often I find myself losing interest quicker, not getting the most out of them and not being able to give back as much as I would like.

Why? Well I think it’s because of how we are designed as humans. The psychology behind communities is vast, with varying theories, but one I particularly like is Dave Logan’s view on Tribe Psychology (watch his Ted Talk on this). In brief, people are one of 5 levels:

  1. Level 1: Everyone’s life sucks, I won’t help
  2. Level 2: My life sucks, I won’t help
  3. Level 3: My life is awesome, knowledge is power, I won’t help
  4. Level 4: All about reciprocity, I will give help to get help
  5. Level 5: Reconciliation, help everyone regardless for a better society

Now the stats are not in our favour on this as 74% of people are levels 1–3. So if we think through what we are trying to achieve by building a community or being part of one, we are already on the back foot. This is no different to the Pareto rule, 20% of the collective drive the 80% of the collective.

In order to enable a community to flourish we need to affect that ratio, even a 10% re-balance would make a huge difference. And, in order to make this successful we need to create a framework that connects relevant people at the right times.

If we can manufacture serendipitous moments so that people are connecting about useful and relevant topics then, I believe, you will see an up-lift in community engagement. At this point the ‘selfish gene’ of getting something I need kicks in and the ‘feel good factor’ of helping, because you can, also plays a part.

If you can marry the two then you get a win/win and you can start to nudge those who are level 1–3. They may not change forever, but if everyone just did one more action for the better of the community, then there would be a huge up-lift as a collective.

About the author

Seb Haire is part of ProFinda’s network of thought leaders - connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter.