Community as a key to success; or, there’s Too Many Secrets

This entry was posted by on Wednesday, 22 January, 2014 at

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One of the keys to long-term success is the involvement in community. You’ve likely heard me say that the only value in knowledge is not in applied knowledge but rather in shared knowledge. While applied knowledge of course has some value, it is in the sharing of knowledge where real and long-term impact value is seen, and where both substantial personal and business growth is achieved.

I was recently reading an article in The Register UK that highlighted this philosophy quite clearly. In the article, the author outlines how Amazon is beholden to open source projects but refrains from contributing back in any substantial or consistent fashion; that the corporate culture dissuades employees from engaging in community either through code contributions or even just conference presentations. The article goes on to say this same secrecy while providing some short-term advantages is now beginning to show some long-term problems as new talent is going elsewhere, to companies that encourage community engagement and allow developers to grow both inside and outside the company.

In the changing models of business, the traditional resume is losing ground to more social and visible methods of proving your value. As noted in the article, a GitHub profile is now a developer’s resume; it shows both skill in coding as well as contribution to the larger community as a good citizen. (The same could be said for a twitter/g+/ or blog for someone in a Social Business role, as they show capability and skill rather than simply tell like a resume does.) Any company that has a focus on long-term success (as all say they do) must encourage external knowledge sharing and contributions to communities both physical and virtual. If you can’t attract talented employees, stagnation and eventual collapse are your only future in business. Conversely, when you encourage employees to interact socially, to share and contribute with a philosophy that extends far beyond sycophantic protection of self-interest and into more philanthropic ventures the future of business suddenly becomes both innovative and lucrative.

This new way of doing business is no longer new. We are now a few years into the experience of social business, and are seeing some of the longer term effects now becoming evident. Effects like the shift of portfolios and resumes to online socially share-able media, where showing is more important than telling, and where sharing knowledge is more important than simply having knowledge. The sooner companies figure out things have changed and to stay relevant means adopting community engagement models to collectively share knowledge, the better off we will all be as we navigate these new paradigms of work and economy.

It all reminds me of the 1992 movie Sneakers: there’s “Too Many Secrets”. But, instead of a nefarious plot to collapse the world economy, today we can use social sharing to avoid having too many secrets which will in turn allow us to adapt and change to new models of business and successful enterprise by sharing knowledge across communities.


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