Online Communities: Best Practice Or Innovation?

August 27, 2012 Comments Off

We attend a lot of meetings that focus on innovative concepts rather than applying best practices. 

Best practice is proven to achieve results in the most efficient way. It's something that is supported by case studies, data, and theory.

We know, for example, it's best practice to engage newcomers in a specific, interactive, activity, upon their first visit. We know it's best practice to encourage and facilitate self-disclosure questions between members. We know it's best practice in CoPs to document the body of knowledge and focus discussions on the edge of that domain of knowledge. 

Innovation is different. Innovative practices refer to concepts, ideas, or new approaches to old problems. As per the nature of online communities, innovation is mostly technological. 

Gamification is innovative. We know it's used by some successful communities, but we don't know it's used to develop successful communities. Using most social media platforms is innovative. Most big communities have them, but we don't have any data that says they're better than the old platforms. 

You can tell where this is going. Best practices trump innovative practices every time. You should only look for innovation when you've mastered best practices. If you can't grow membership, increase activity, and sustain a strong sense of community, then you don't need to worry about the new, innovative, stuff yet. 

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