I attended a workshop put on by CPSquare in 2003 on Communities of Practice that had a profound impact on my worldview. I met folks from around the US who helped to foster communities of practice in corporate, education, government, and non-profit settings and was surprised at how common the both the challenges and methodologies for overcoming them were.
I had a chance to spend a day with Doug Engelbart, we ended up sitting at the same table and did a number of small group activities together. His concept of bootstrapping as an improvement of an improvement activity was an inspiration for our Bootstrapper Breakfasts, an effort to harness the collective IQ of a group of entrepreneurs who are each trying to get better to assist one another in getting better faster. Doug also demonstrated a version of his Open Hyperdocument System that has given me a model to aim for as we continue to improve the infrastructure for the delivery of our services: individual consulting, workshops, partner coordination, and collaboration as a part of the startup team to reach a working consensus on both strategy and the supporting materials to execute them.
I decided to take part in CPSquare workshop that just started yesterday, and I would encourage anyone who is interested in learning more about wikis and other modes of on-line and face to face collaboration to consider joining. It’s going to run for the next few weeks, blending conference calls with on-line forum interaction and a number of very interesting case studies. I have been asked to present some cases on how we leverage a number of on-line tools, wikis in particular, but I am only one of many folks detailing their practice.
We had a very good conference call to kick things off yesterday and I thought I would blog and encourage entrepreneurs who want to get better at combining a number of different modes of collaboration, both on-line and face to face, to sign up. It’s that good. The calls are taped and you will have access to the on-line examples so you haven’t missed very much at all if you sign up now. You can register here: http://cpsquare.org/conferences/
The benefits: if you don’t learn how to be more effective in on-line collaboration, including techniques for global teams, and how to blend on-line and face to face collaboration to improve the quality of team meetings and decisions, then you are not paying attention. Our clients, while they are still primarily Silicon Valley firms, now include teams in Denmark, China, Australia, Sweden, India, and England. And watching how this international group has coordinated on this workshop has given me a number of new tools and techniques to improve how we work at a distance.
It’s not my workshop so I am not bragging about anything you will learn from me, but it’s a diverse and creative group of folks who are pushing the state of the art in collaboration. It includes Ward Cunningham who invented wikis and Etienne Wenger who helped to formalize the concept of a community of practice, a well as many other less famous but equally insightful folks.
SaaS, wikis, blogs are all more than a decade old: I think the next ten years may be as much about enhancing our understanding of how to leverage what’s already been invented as it is to invent new things. This will offer you an opportunity to start thinking hard about what that might entail in the way that you organize your work and your team.