My work is to create online mentoring communities to support innovative and sustainable projects/startups. With my team, we help incubators, accelerators and mentoring programs around the world, to combine their innovation process with an online community environment.
What do they usually wish to achieve?
Their main goal is to create a stronger bond between people: a more fluid interaction and fruitful collaboration between innovators and their network of advisors. The vision is to successfully involve all possible stakeholders, and tap into their collective genius to tackle complex problems together. Organizations today are sitting in a gold-mine of their stakeholders’ knowledge. Think of all the people involved in the innovation process: Entrepreneurs, Mentors, Coaches, Alumni, Academics & Researchers, Investors, Field Experts, Venture’s Customers and Partners, Civil society…You.
The key benefits that modern digital platforms bring to such networks are remarkable:
- Remove geographic boundaries between the members;
- Make Best Practices readily available;
- Foster peer-to-peer learning and knowledge transfer;
- Build off the collective wisdom of a your crowd;
- Stay in touch with alumni and invite their continued involvement in future cohorts.
Attracted from this value proposition, innovation centers around the world are experimenting how to create thriving online communities. Certain networks are thriving, such as Open Ideo. Others have failed, as the communities never took off and people did not engage.
What’s the secret to make it work?
Over the past 3 years, we have gathered a list of the challenges that are leading many communities to fail. We can resume our key learning with one sentence: “Failing to plan, is planning to fail”.
- Most programs do not have an engagement plan. When they have one, they often overlook to validate both community-goals and deliverables with the stakeholders involved.
- On-boarding is often performed in a chaotic way. It can be difficult to identify the right people to start a pilot.
- The program agenda, the norms and the rules that make a great community dynamic, are often not clear since the very beginning.
- Lacking a thorough communication strategy and a dynamic community facilitator is recipe for disaster.
The secret is to seek the right balance between the on-line and the off-line components of your innovation program. The online platform is just a tool, so you should not put too much faith into it. You need to have a clear strategy on how each stakeholder group will create and capture value through the online experience. And you need to have the right team to execute this strategy. The journey is ambitious, but the reward is huge: a dynamic ecosystem for stakeholders’ collaboration and collective innovation… which I feel is the best possible premise to build a better world.