This morning I went to the last Melbourne Business Awards breakfast for the year. The event recognises and rewards excellence in industry and manufacturing in my local area of the City of Kingston in the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne. I joined this association in an effort to connect more with my local community. I wrote about my experiences in previous blog posts How To Broaden Your Networks into New Markets and The Melbourne Business Awards.
Now you may ask, “how is local industry and manufacturing relevant to corporate social learning?”
I’m asking the same question but I’ve come to realise that my need to explore my local community and make new connections and networks goes beyond just corporate Learning and Development. In fact, I’m beginning to think it’s because I’m drawn to the opportunity to see new ways of reinvigorating and inspiring our connections back into my local community. To me, it is “social/collaborative/peer learning” but on a wider scale, beyond the team, beyond the enterprise and into the community. I’m inspired by the idea that there are some very smart people out in my local area who are building new business, fostering new ideas and innovations and then selling these to the world – but who are they? Where are they? What are they doing? How can others help? Why aren’t local freelancers and start ups connecting with them?
We simply don’t hear about them.
So in a way, it’s like my suburb is being put on the global map but my neighbours and local business are oblivious about the good work that they’re doing to progress all fields in science, manufacturing, retail and other industries.
I find this impressive because I’m attracted to the idea of “how” – how did these businesses start? How did they find their niche? What challenges do they have? What can big corporations learn from their smaller, agile, mostly family owned businesses?
To me, every time I hear these success stories for these small to medium size enterprises, the words, “we’re like family” or “we have a tight knit community” or “our team are friends” and this got me thinking that there’s more to learn about how these teams work to make their business successful.
Is it really about the business? Or more about the business recognising the key strengths, talents and capabilities of their people first coupled with a supportive and nurturing environment around their business story and service?
I think corporates may have it the wrong way around.
Some time ago, I visited the Pivot Summit in Geelong where the City of Geelong is recreating the town into a vibrant, start up and business hub community and it got me thinking about “smart towns”. I wrote about it (and vlogged) in The Future of Business is Digital Even In My Own Suburb.
It got me thinking about my local area and how I can be more active in my own community and one of the ways I decided to do this when I left the corporate world is to attend networking events, speak to small and medium businesses in the area, use my Rotary connections and basically “get out there”.
To someone standing on the outside, they may ask, “why are you even doing this? It has NOTHING to do with you selling your services and products around corporate social learning -in fact, these businesses are not even in your target market!” but I guess you can say that I’m someone who likes to have ideas and then get out there to see if they can be applied in some way. I’m constantly thinking what can we learn from other industries that we can apply? On the journey, I meet many people from all walks of life and then I connect them to others to help them solve their problems.
I think I’m beginning to see that I like to “join the dots” and connect people to others. I guess that’s “my thing”…
Anyhoo, this morning was really interesting. I sat next to a business developer of a private golf course and someone who has a business apparel business. Somehow the conversation got onto the fact that some traditional private golf clubs are struggling for membership and the need to encourage their members to use social media. In my head, I thought that maybe the issue won’t be solved by social media but there are a variety of external factors that may be the reason why this is happening. (In fact, many traditional clubs are also experiencing the same problem). Then business apparel businessman told us that he had set up an informal golfing group of about 20 people that has been running for 17 years. They set up their own website, they play courses around Melbourne, they set up a mobile BBQ and have a few beers at the end of the game. He also told me that he didn’t understand social media and tried to avoid it. However, from what he told me I saw that in effect, he had created his own social community.
Too often people think that social media will solve their problems but I’m beginning to think that what is missing for many companies is the fact that they have failed to create a community.
People crave to be part of a team, a group, a community. It’s amazing that on the one hand they say, “No, I don’t use social media!” and on the other they say, “Yes, I created a website for my golfing community and that’s where we all chat & connect with each other when we’re not playing!” There’s a perception that “social” media is something other than what they’re already doing OUTSIDE of work. I see and meet so many people who are already using the social tools OUTSIDE of their work to CREATE their community around their PASSION and yet, for some reason, they don’t do the same INSIDE their job!
Imagine the power if they did this inside their company – to work out loud, to share what they are doing or working on and then to find others who may have similar interests.
The mind boggles with the possibilities…
So the question is: “Are community development skills the new skills for a networked world?” That is, to be able to form, create, find, inspire your “tribe”?
I think they are.
This morning, the MC asked the question, “Who hasn’t used social media?” and the majority of hands went up in the room. Around the table, I overheard, “I need to learn how to use it for my business” and a couple of people noticed me tweeting out during the presentation and enquired what I was doing.
The more I think about it – it’s really less about the use of social media and more about how to build a community using the right tools to find people, connect with others and collaborate and co-operate on potential business, projects or partnerships together. That’s where the true power is. That’s where I found it through my own “personal learning networks”.
Here’s a photo of me with Jason Geary who you may recognise as the “iSelect Guy” who advertises health insurance on television. He spoke about the importance of improvisation for businesses which resonated with me. The key message was improvisation is about “making the other person look good” and it is exactly what social networking behaviours is about – it’s not about you – it’s about how you can help the other person. He has a company called Spark (www.sparkteamwork.com) who help business to “learn stealthily” (hey, best type of learning IMHO) through improvisation coaching around themes of change, communication and creativity.
— Helen Blunden (@ActivateLearn) December 3, 2015