Tips for Using LinkedIn for Professional Growth

I recently attended a session on using “LinkedIn for Professional Growth and Connectivity” at my local Social Media Breakfast Club meeting. LinkedIn is a social network I’d like to explore and better understand this year, and my current work has me thinking along the lines of using social media to enhance opportunities for growth and connectivity in several capacities. So needless to say, I was very interested and impressed to hear how career counselor and our presenter, Andrea Chartier, has explored and modeled using LinkedIn for these same reasons in her work.

LinkedIn – Don’t Set It and Forget it!

The general idea by many is to treat LinkedIn as an online version of a resume and ‘set it and forget it’. I am a somewhat guilty party here, so it was refreshing to hear Andrea’s ideas about ways we can use LinkedIn to enhance our profiles, and to search and connect with other professionals to help us learn or achieve current work goals (not just job searching).

How? Below, I’ve highlighted a few takeaways from Andrea’s session that will be helpful for expanding my own use of LinkedIn and my work helping other education professionals.

7 Takeaways from ‘Using LinkedIn for Professional Growth and Connectivity’

  1. LinkedIn Pulse is a way to keep up-to-date and a nice substitute for the drama of the Facebook news feed. Here you can keep up with your industry, and find opportunities for professional growth.
  2. Use LinkedIn to find people to help you do your (current) job. LinkedIn can be used to connect and find people with skills and connections you are looking for to help you do your job. (See the next bullet for how to find the right people)
  3. Use LinkedIn to grow your network through your network. For example, go back to the connections you have, like your Alma Mater, then look for people that are similar to you, or would be helpful for you to connect with for professional growth. (Tip: search by a job title keyword and location. It works surprisingly well).
  4. Change your summary to update your skills as you go. Andrea says she updates her summary all the time. She also recommended adding a few bullet points at the end of your summary that suggests how people should reach out to you to have conversations (over coffee, of course).
  5. Update your skills list. When you look at your skills list, does it match the skills you have? If not, it’s time to update it. You can also add skills you have that have not been suggested or endorsed by others.
  6. Re-order your skills list. Did you know that all those endorsed skills that other people say you have can be re-ordered or prioritized by you, too?
  7. Use your skills list to identify skills you’d like to acquire and new connections to make.   What about other skills would you like to acquire? Seeing the gaps in your LinkedIn skills list can help you consider what you’d like to post to your LinkedIn profile in the future, and help you search for people you can learn from to acquire new skills.

Ideas to Add to My Facilitation Toolbox

Aside from the helpful tips Andrea provided about using LinkedIn, she also shared some insightful facilitation tips that I plan to use in some upcoming professional development sessions.

Co-write your LinkedIn summary! (20 minutes – 1 hour). Writing about yourself can be difficult. Understanding what your peers and colleagues think are your best skills or assets can be very helpful for crafting an intriguing summary that others will want to look at twice, or thrice!

Here is how Andrea suggested this summary writing exercise can work:

  • Take a blank sheet of paper.
  • Write everything down that you are good at – things your mom, colleagues, or friends tell you that you are good at. (5-10 minutes)
  • Next, have someone else look at these skills and highlight the ones they think are most valuable or describe you best. Discuss (5-15 minutes)
  • Now, work on your own. Turn these skills into bio line sentences or a LinkedIn summary (10 -30+ minutes).

Relationship Economy exercise (5 minutes). Learn how being connected matters to know something new. Andrea pointed out that we are in a relationship economy in our local community. She says that many jobs get filled before they get posted, and that who you are connected to matters.

She gave everyone in the room 5 minutes to find someone and to find one person in common (out of the 100,000+ or so that exist in our local community/region). I met someone that was involved with music.  I thought this was going to be hard to figure out one connection we had in common, but it only took us 2-3 minutes to find a connection in common. After asking her what she did, I found a common connection between another person I knew that participated in a local musical venture. It was an interesting example of how thinking about a specific skill or sub-community that you have in common might help you make a connection.

Is LinkedIn the New Resume?

Andrea wrapped up her presentation by asking, “Is LinkedIn the new resume?” She answered with, ‘it depends’. In some cases, the old paper resume is still needed, depending on the expectations and processes of the people and organizations hiring. In other cases, the paper resume is just too stale. It is not dynamic enough for today’s dynamic world of work.

I think you need both. LinkedIn gives people a dynamic idea about who you are and what skills you offer. I see the value of using it to communicate both what I do and to identify skills gaps that I would like to close.

Andrea had many good ideas of how you could spend time improving your profile and making effective connections (many of which are in her A Practical Approach to Actually Using LinkedIn for Professional Growth and Connectivity, which can be found on her LinkedIn Profile via Slideshare.net).

 

Now the challenge: Can I schedule a routine practice to keep my LinkedIn profile, summary, and connections up-to-date and useful?

 

 

Is a routine blogging practice on my horizon?

I recently took a few days to reflect and recharge. I tirelessly watched the sunrise as it gradually gave definition to the waves that swelled, crested, and crashed beneath it, all without a digital device interrupting me.
20151108_062909

As I watched intently and uninterrupted, I thought a lot about my reflective practices, processes, and tools this year.  I had thought I would have an opportunity to do more blogging this year, but for many reasons, this hasn’t been the case.

Instead,  I have spent a lot of time learning and making sense of many changes with colleagues via conversations and collaborative projects. 

I also found ways to maintain some “pre-blogging” activities such as collecting bookmarks, writing lots of notes, journaling, taking pictures of images that represent useful metaphors,  and continuing to work to improve my sketchnote making and doodling abilities.

Sunrise

Sunrise – 2015 was not quite the year of getting into a routine blogging habit, but I did manage to work toward it.

Even though I didn’t develop a routine blogging habit this year, these pre-blogging activities are helping me move closer to developing a blogging habit in the following ways…

  • developing better insights, or perhaps a tighter focus for my blogging goals
  • developing better repositories of images and ideas
  • establishing and improving my systems to organize, collect and create materials around my blogging goals and across digital and social platforms.
  • providing opportunities to develop better overall visual communication skills

Keeping these ideas in mind, I know that I need to set some priorities, deadlines, and boundaries for myself if I’d like to start blogging on a routine basis. Here are my current ideas for beginning to establish a blogging routine:

  • Use a few select blog categories to focus blog writing, idea and image collections, in a way that contributes to a greater discussion. Quite serendipitously, I ran across John’s Stepper new post about goal setting and purposeful discovery which helps illuminate more ideas on this topic.
  • Make a blog topics spreadsheet, with a ‘priority’ column, and category column that I can use to make decisions about what I should blog about first and how these topics relate to my goals.
  • Commit to sharing my story when I go to an event or present at a conference.
  • Blog with fewer words. (I’m considering limiting myself to approximately 400 words for awhile.)
  • Use more visual prompts and metaphors.
  • Start with a realistic goal (e.g. 1 blog post per month?).
  • Set an appropriate time aside.  (I’m working on determining what this means.)
  • Learn how others have set and mastered committing to this habit.

Having this list is a bit like seeing the sunrise over the horizon. There is more I’ll have to do, more questions to answer, and more I’ll have to commit to in order to see the daylight of establishing a more routine blogging practice. In the meantime, I’m learning a lot, which in itself is worth taking the time to establish the practice.

Had an amazing 3 days of watching the sun rise over the lake this week.

A video posted by Karen Jeannette (@kjjeannette) on

Online Tools for Collaboration between Staff and Volunteers

In preparation for today’s web conference conversation on Online Tools for Collaboration between Staff and Volunteers,  I wanted to prepare a few thoughts about how a task force of six people have come together for the past two years to volunteer their time to create a social media training.

The training is designed to help Extension Master Gardener (EMG) volunteers learn about using social media to share research-based information in a volunteer role with EMG programs across the United States. The virtual task force has been glued together by their passion of helping volunteers learn to use social media to “Learn. Reach. Teach” in a Extension volunteer role, and made possible by a myriad of online tools and collaborative approaches.

EMG Social Media Training

A list of online tools for collaboration between staff and volunteers

Today, Steve Judd (co-task force member, and chair of the eXtension Network Literacy CoP) and I will discuss some tools we used to collaborate and create the online training.  Here is a quick list with a brief description of how the tools were used:

  • Doodle Polls – scheduling meetings across time zones.
  • Google Hangouts – F2F like video conferencing with colleagues
    • Uber Conference app for Google Hangouts (a way to bring people together in a Hangout despite firewalls and internet connectivity issues)
    • Google Hangout event (scheduling the meeting)
  • Email updates and reminders – perhaps this is a given, but it was still an important way to communicate progress, help people find links to documents,  and send meeting reminders to the team.
  • Drupal – a CMS that served as a container to chronologically organize meeting notes.
  • Boomerang – a way to send email in the wee hours of the morning so they hit the team’s inbox at 9 am.
  • Boardthing.com – a way to brainstorm and organize ideas for putting the training together.
  • Google Sites – first a way to organize the content of the site. Secondly, a way to offer the site without having to log in with a password. Thirdly, the comments feature also provided a way for team members to have and keep track of conversations around content sections.
  • Google Drive
    • Google Docs – putting thoughts together and enabling discussions around them
    • Google Sheets – organizing team assignments, user testing results and priorities
    • Google Forms – creating knowledge checks
    • Google Slides – putting slide presentations together
  • YouTube – a way to embed videos into Google Slides and Google Sites.
  • Word Docs –  a tool used for gathering user testing participants feedback (sometimes communicating with tools that people use most frequently is best)
  • WebEx – a way to allow user testing and focus group participants access to a phone number and video conferencing options, while also enabling the recording of focus group feedback.
  • Flickr images and wikimedia – a place to find CC images, acknowledge attribution, and share images
  • Qualtrics – a way to create a certificate quiz that auto-generates a certificate to the participant (without having them create a password for a LMS).

Following the announcement of this session last week, Jerry Buckho, colleague and fellow Network Literacy CoP member, asked a few questions about online tools for collaboration:

  • What did you do to help the team to keep moving forward?
  • What approach did the team take towards completing the various tasks? Who contributed to what and how was it decided?
  • Did you have to work through any issues w/ team members having lack of access to tools/resources?
  • What kind of time structure/temporal framework did the team adopt? Is all work done via team meetings, or something more fluid?
  • How did you work w/ the differing experience levels of team members w/ distance collaboration & the tech/tools you used?

I thought these questions were helpful as I prepare my thoughts for today’s session. On today’s call, we will likely discuss some of these questions or similar aspects.

{Update: the recording is posted via the same link provided} The Online tools for Collaboration between Staff and Volunteers web conference discussion will be held today (9/29/2015) at 2pm ET.  If you have an interest in online collaboration and tools, join us!  If you need to see what 2 pm ET is in your time zone, check the link, it should convert to your timezone!

4 microlessons worth sharing – March 25

Ever since last week’s #PKMChat on microcontent and microlearning (3-18-15) I’ve been thinking in microterms. As I thought more carefully about how I was using microcontent to microlearn this week, I realized that I had learned a few microlessons. This things worth sharing post is themed around these microlessons.

1) How can game design principles help us use smaller slices of information to enhance engagement and learning? Game On! Applying Game Design Principles to research, teaching, and outreach strategies, a conference keynote session I attended by Dr. Rosa Mikeal Martey in 2011, has influenced my thinking about using smaller slices of information to create engaging learning opportunities. With all the conversation on microcontent and microlearning in #PKMChat this week, many insights about microcontent and microlearning can be gained by understanding these gaming design principles, specifically:

  • progressive levels – how can we break things into smaller more manageable slices
  • feedback and measurement – providing more frequent feedback and measurement to sustain motivation and encourage experimentation
  • narrative and purpose – how to connect the smaller slices to a larger purpose

Towards the end of her presentation, Dr. Martey prompts researchers, educators, and outreach professionals to design learning and engagement opportunities (perhaps microlessons?) around the question: “What is it you need to learn?”, rather than  “How will I know what you know?”.

2)How about a drawing microchallenge? A couple weeks ago I used Dave Gray’s squiggle bird YouTube video to give myself a two minute drawing microchallenge. Adding feet and tail feathers on a variety of squiggles stretched my idea of what a bird could look like (check out the long little bird in the middle). This microchallenge helped me see how I can make characters out of many other shapes. It also was a great example of microcontent (video) and microlesson (the challenge) which led to my own microlearning (a small step forward in my artistic skill development).

My attempt at drawing squiggle birds on my phone.

My attempt at drawing squiggle birds on my phone.

3)Does microcontent = planned and re-purposed content?    I’ve thought of creating better microcontent mostly as the act of re-purposing bits of long form online educational events and content such as webinars, blog posts, or PDFs to share through social media. During a conversation with Helen Blunden during last week’s #PKMChat,  I realized I highly value conversation threads as a form of microcontent.

This helped remind me to plan to curate or share conversational insights back to the community of learners when appropriate. Storify and RebelMouse (see this EdTechLN example with its e-newsletter feature) are two tools I’ve seen that help to make lighter work out of curating and sharing conversations that make for great microcontent.

4)How do we become designers of better microchoices? Information architect Abbey Covert changed my thinking about who is a designer when I first saw her Slideshare presentation How to Make Sense of Any Mess.

After many years of not completely understanding why I’ve been intrigued by design thinking or why I’ve been completely annoyed by the paradox of choice when I enter the toothpaste aisle or go to buy a pair of jeans, it has become apparent to me that 21st century skills include becoming better at designing solutions and frameworks to make better and many microchoices.

As educational professionals, I see three ways where we can design solutions to help make better microchoices:

  • Designing and implementing our own daily (PKM)  personal framework and routine to get better at making, articulating, and sharing how we make microchoices in an information abundant and complex world.
  • Designing microcontent (or perhaps microlessons) that can help others learn and act to make a microchoice.
  • Designing (or co-designing) social learning frameworks or environments that spark opportunities to build knowledge, skills, and on-going social support so people can continue to learn together as knowledge evolves.

Five ideas worth sharing – March 10, 2015

Thanks to Maureen Crawford for sharing her first post on 10 things worth sharing with me last week. Her format using the simple idea of ‘things worth sharing’ seemed like something I could do on a regular basis. To date, this was the easiest (or least time consuming) blog post for me to put together.

Some of this week’s ideas led to this insight of being able to share information more quickly or more simply. Other ideas are focused around digital workplace and leadership skills.

1) How do we explain the learning that goes on by sharing micro-content?  In Kate Pinner’s Sunday Summary, she shared this link on micro-learning. I liked the term micro-learning because it places the emphasis on what people will takeaway or learn from your micro-content.

2) Is blogging blurting? One of the most difficult barriers for me to overcome in my blogging venture is to increase the frequency of my blogging. I feel like I need to complete a thought like I would to publish a research paper or a lab report. I know I need to get past this. In fact, I do believe blogging is for sharing half-baked ideas, but I’ve struggled to find the ‘art’ or my personal recipe for creating and sharing half-baked ideas.  Nigel Young’s blurting blog posts and this discussion that Bruno Wick and I had (first here, and then here)  about working and learning out loud are helping see the nuances of how to blurt to get blogging. (It’s likely I’ll be including more sketch blurts in the future)

3) I could do this! A 30 second lifelong habit. Through Maureen Crawford’s 10 things worth sharing post, I found this idea could build off the idea of blurting for blogging. Taking 30 seconds to jot down a note after a meeting or experience is a great way to keep track of what I’m learning. I can just grab these 30 second insights from my daily Evernote entries or from a sketch note I’ve created, then place them in a weekly blog post summary (like I have here today).

4) Transactional, Transformational, or T-shaped leadership?  My colleague Anne Adrian summarized a professional development activity on Full Range Leadership during a recent meeting. It was about balancing transactional leadership with transformational leadership. In an effort to capture this discussion, I sketched it. This reminded me of when I first read about T-shaped leadership in Morten Hansen’s book Collaboration. It’s been a few years since I read Collaboration, but I realized it might be good to think about it again. Planning a T-shaped workweek (as described in this HBR article) could be thought of a daily activity as part of one’s PKM (personal knowledge management) routine, and as a way to shape and grow one’s personal learning network.

Sketch notes

Thoughts sketched about transactional, transformations, and t-shaped leadership

5) What are the Required Skills for Today’s Digital Workforce? Dion Hinchcliffe’s insightful post includes two graphics: one on internal and external digital factors that affect change, and another defining seven skills for the digital workforce. I thought both of these graphics could be helpful for finding a starting point to direct change initiatives within organizations (or personally). This post created a flurry of other insights, blog posts, and conversations about which digital work force skills and mindsets are required in today’s digital and networked world. I plan to expand more on this in an upcoming post.

Answering: What is a Community of Practice?

I’m participating in an open section of Enterprise Social Networking #MSLOC430. In week 3 and 4, one of the assignments is to write about the one of the following innovations in work: crowdsourcing, idea management and design, communities of practice, or working out loud. I’m sharing my thoughts and journey on discovering “What makes a community of practice?”

Understanding Community of Practice through Theory and Practical Terms

I’ve spent much of the past eight years figuring out:

What is a community and what will they practice?

Wenger and Trayner’s Introduction to Communities of Practice is such a good start to answer this question. I think it’s important to understand the domain, community, and practice as separate pieces.  Yet in practical terms, my most helpful understanding is what Harold Jarche explained to me at our National eXtension Conference in 2014:

My journey to understand ‘Community of Practice’

I began my journey working for an eXtension CoP as a content (development) specialist, first helping to coordinate and produce content from a collection of many of our national land grant university and Cooperative Extension System resources.

Did we have a CoP?

Having come into the CoP after the visioning stages, I began to realize that sometimes the term Community of Practice can begin as more of an idea or ambition than a reality.

In 2007, our beginning initiative started with developing content: a database of gardening FAQs merged and curated from different state programs. We also started by creating some summary articles on basic gardening information.

When we brought people together from many state programs to a face-to-face meeting, they very much intended to collaborate to produce new content, i.e. write, review, but when we all went back home, the day to day activities of many replaced the ideas and energy of our meeting. So, I began to wonder:

  • How am I going to develop content with people that don’t know each other?
  • Was it the technology and web literacies that were holding us back?
    • Privacy and security concerns?
    • The infrequency of working or communication together? (Why doesn’t everyone just work out loud on Twitter? Wouldn’t that would be great!)
  • Did we have too domains of practice to merge to really practice together? (Horticulture had many sub domains and we also had program coordinators).

Finding the right questions to start building community

I realized all of these questions probably needed to be addressed and considered, but the real issue was: How do we bring people together, and, can we expect them to produce content as a community of practice made up of volunteer contributors?

Nancy White’s Me, We, and the Network webinar and our follow-up discussion provided great insight to help me understand: What brings people together through technology in general, not just through a community of practice?

Changing focus from building content to building community

When I realized I should be asking new questions, I found Harold Jarche’s blog and printed out each version of what I call the ‘Cooperative-Collaborative learning bubbles diagram.’ You can find a version of it in In Networks Cooperation Trumps Collaboration. My obsession with figuring out how to foster interaction and movement between the ‘Cooperative-Collaborative learning bubbles’ led to this insightful metaphor of acting as social dance hall convener.

Collaboration and Cooperation

What behaviors could we expect from CoP members when participating in work teams, communities of practice, and broader social networking opportunities? (Collaboration & Cooperation image from Jarche.com CC BY-NC-SA 2.5 CA)

I continued to look for ways we could use technology to ‘convene’ or bring groups of people together more frequently. I also began to change some of my expectations about what were realistic activities (and benefits) to expect from work teams, communities of practice, or participation in broader social networking opportunities.

6 lessons I learned about the character of CoPs and community building

Through my journey to understand how to bring people together, I learned some lessons about CoP and community building in general:

1)Narrow down the domain and purpose (i.e. make it attainable). We started with a large network and an ambitious list of objectives. The most attainable goal of the community was not to build a national core curriculum or online course with our current resources. We started to discover that 1) we needed to focus on one group (coordinators, not coordinators and horticulture specialists) and 2)the greatest need for coordinators was to focus on the different aspects of (extension master gardener) volunteer program management, outreach, and program delivery.

A rough idea of the potential number of state coordinators, county coordinators, and volunteers that were in our network and could be in the CoP.

A rough idea of the potential number of state coordinators, county coordinators, and volunteers that were in our network and could be in the CoP.

2) Hire a community facilitator, or even better, a social artist? Since our CoP’s primary focus shifted to more frequent knowledge sharing, we needed to cultivate community. Before this, we would have called this person, me, a content coordinator or project manager. The activities and the position in the United Nations Communities of Practice Guide describe this role as a community facilitator. I see others in the business world may sometimes refer to this as community manager, as I mentioned recently). To be clear, I think the closest official title to community facilitator I came up with was “CoP Support”. I was somewhat worried people would not understand what I was doing, after all, how do you measure that and is that really work? During our #msloc430 discussion these past two weeks, we’ve also come to acknowledge this person as a social artist (or social dance hall convener like I mentioned above).

Can you imagine ‘social artist’ in your signature line or how about ‘network weaver’?

3)Reduce bottlenecks and start with ‘low hanging fruit’ type of platforms. When we realized we might want to develop the CoP by having program coordinators share program management and educational delivery methods, we thought a national blog might be a good platform for sharing. It seemed like it would be easier to adopt than Facebook for some. Nope.  That ended up being a steep learning (and coordination curve for me). It didn’t help coordinators get to know each other or work with each other more frequently. On our way to plan A, we found a much better plan B or “What really happened”, which really helped the community to grow.

Elements of Plan B: The events highlighted in yellow are really what helped the community begin to grow, not the blog.

Elements of Plan B: The events highlighted in yellow are really what helped the community begin to grow, not the blog.

It was the self-serve,  opt-in listserve and web conference discussions (shown above in yellow) that we began to offer that became better mechanisms for program coordinators to share with purpose and frequency. In 2010, coordinators already used listserves frequently. Web conferences were a slight extension of giving presentations, which fit in with their routine work. The web conferences are now being coordinated for the fourth year in a row by community members, and the coordinators now routinely share questions about program management on the listserve (a sign of CoP growth!).

4) Modeling how to be social is critical. We made it a goal to make people feel invited and welcomed during web conferences. We engaged in the chat pod and pointed out the type of discussion we hoped to facilitate. I noticed that it was most effective when other community leaders were engaged, too. On many (leadership) levels, I saw there is something to be said for having organizational leaders support, champion, and model how to work in social environments.  Some helpful insights were shared during #msloc430 recently as Christina Pedulla shared Individual Knowledge Sharing Behaviors in Virtual Communities and as Helen Blunden described about Michelle Ocker’s promotion and support of her Work, Connect, and Learn program.

5) Learning might lead to collaborative works. Sometimes I see CoPs get misrepresented as innovative work groups that should produce, x, y, or z. When thinking of CoP work, I see supporting the learning comes first. My experience has taught me that collaborative work may emerge after people have a chance to learn and share together more frequently. Through those cooperative interactions, you might see a group, perhaps a task force, spin off to collaborate and get work done (or perhaps it will be the sign of a new budding community).

Community of Practice as an incubator for emergent work

Community of Practice as an incubator for emergent work (my sketch for how I see work gets done in a CoP). Start with the learning first, and you MAY get a product as a result of the serendipitous environment and connections made through learning in a trusted environment.

6)CoPs grow like gardens and that’s why developmental evaluation is becoming really interesting to me. I thought it might have been a coincidence that I supported a gardening focused CoP and kept seeing gardening metaphors for my CoP work. Now I see that community growth IS like watching and tending to a garden as it grows. I don’t claim to understand developmental evaluation through the lens of a professional evaluator, but using a developmental evaluation model to understand what we are learning, and how we are growing and changing together is something I think is critical to understand and articulate. (Thanks to colleague Brigitte Scott, who I now work with, for helping to drive home how developmental evaluation can work in a program, organization, or community.)

What lessons are familiar to you?

I’d be interested in hearing which of the ideas above reflect your experiences of bringing people to work together to work in groups, communities, or broader social networks.

4 takeaways about investing in online learning community

It’s been eight years (in January) since I began helping virtual teams of educational professionals to share research-based information and educational programming with online learning communities. I have never called myself a community manager per se, as many community managers don’t, but I’ve taken on many different community management roles.

Over the past few weeks, I found myself coming back to four resources or ideas about innovation, community management, agile leadership, and personal resilience. They resonated with me on several levels, but I took some time to clarify why and how these resources resonated with me.

Idea 1 – Innovation might just look ordinary.

Prompted by the article, Revolutionary, Ordinary Innovation, and my own interest in how innovation happens, I found this excerpt important to pay attention to:

…what makes these innovations disruptive is the way they transform every-day, ordinary activities. These innovations are simultaneously revolutionary and ordinary. As a result, they are often much more subtle than classic lab-based innovations, which few would ever call ordinary.

….A similar characteristic permeates the work of Steve Jobs. As many have observed, a number of Jobs’ most profound innovations, like the iPod, iPhone and iPad, were based on existing technologies available to everyone, which he linked together with exquisite designs and sophisticated marketing. His new products did extraordinary things with available technologies. They were highly successful and captured our imagination because as he once said: A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.

Idea 2- Focused efforts around programming can be more innovative than focused efforts around technology. During the  Community Management in Higher Education webinar (Dec. 3, 2014), co-founder of the Community Roundtable (CRT),  Rachel Happe,  reminded us of how community can support educational learning and innovation:

Communities are required to change behavior, to drive growth, to drive innovation. This is what education and learning about.

However, one of the key takeaways or pain points she addressed for me during the webinar was when Happe shared this finding:

…the focus on content and programming often lags behind efforts to build technology and tools to engage people.

…yet, creating focus or a plan for content and programming is where CRT sees ‘best in class communities’ derive higher value from their community management efforts.

Idea 3 – Learning and working through social uncomfort is part of agile leadership. I recently joked with a few colleagues that one of my best qualities is working through uncomfortable and awkward situations (particularly virtual meetings).   I think uncomfortableness might just becoming more common as we increasingly interact with others from different backgrounds, understandings, and often through challenging technical situations. Realizing this, Kevin Cashman’s article,  5 Dimensions of Learning Agile leaders spoke to me, specifically the 5 dimensions:

• Mental Agility: Thinking critically to penetrate complex problems and expanding possibilities by making fresh connections.

• People Agility: Understanding and relating to other people, as well as tough situations to harness and multiply collective performance.

• Change Agility: Enjoying experimentation, being curious and effectively dealing with the discomfort of change.

• Results Agility: Delivering results in first-time situations by inspiring teams, and exhibiting a presence that builds confidence in themselves and others.

• Self-Awareness: Being reflective and knowing themselves well; understanding their capabilities and their impact on others.

Idea 4  – A Personal Board of Directors? The agile leadership ideas from Idea 3 tie right into this next resource, the 4 habits of the most resilient people. I liked the idea of calling the people I reach out to my ‘personal board of directors’.

“My personal board’s members don’t really know they are part of a team; they likely each think they are the only one I call when I need a sounding board.”

Why not have a name for this group of people that I call upon regularly or from time to time?  These people assist me in improving my self-awareness, critical thinking, and other dimensions of agile leadership – not to mention it’s just plain fun and rewarding to build friendships and new working relationships.

Four ideas lead to four connected takeaways

The four ideas above provided many me with many key insights, but I wanted to know: How do these four ideas connect to my experiences in community management and building learning community?  I mapped out these ideas and found four additional ‘connected’ takeaways:

Sketch of four ideas about innovation, community management, agile leadership, and personal resilience lead to four connected takeaways

Sketch of four ideas about innovation, community management, agile leadership, and personal resilience lead to four connected takeaways

1)Online learning communities, or the interactions within them, can be a potential and seemingly ordinary source of innovation.  I think it’s a good idea to not lose sight of this, as it helps me describe why intentionally investing in supporting learning community and agile leadership through educational programming can be beneficial.

2) Investing in educational program planning can be a key catalyst in building learning communities.  When we create a plan to focus our efforts,  it can help us direct our energy and resources to provide a clearer and more consistent story of who we are trying to reach and how it can help us serve their needs. The plan also becomes something we can measure against and learn from so we can gain an even better understanding of how to develop future programming or how technology can better support the community member’s needs.

3)Community managers create social comfort – often acting as guides and glue. Community managers help community members navigate new and unfamiliar pathways, often helping learners to leap from platform to platform to answer questions or solve problems as they arise. They also act like glue, helping to foster and nurture connections between community members, and build a trusted space where people feel comfortable sharing and exchanging ideas (which we hope leads to more learning, problem solving and innovation!).

4)Community managers need to be supported in practicing agile leadership and personal resilience.  Even though community managers smooth out the road for others, they often hit emotional bumps of self doubt and frustration,  caused by things they cannot know or control in advance. To keep up the emotional energy and social comfort necessary for effective community management, they need to be supported to practice self-care, personal resilience and agile leadership skills.

So these were my four key takeaways from the four resources and ideas I presented.  Do these ideas or takeaways relate with your work or goals to bring people together to learn, problem solve, innovate, or build community?  How might they be similar or different?