In order to get any group of people to work together towards a common goal, you need to find the answers to these questions:
- What do you want people to do?
- How will they do it?
- Who do you want to participate?
- Why will these people participate?
This should be the starting mindset for any brand or anyone designing experiences that are intended to engage a community of likeminded people.
When brands attempt to work with groups of individuals outside the brand, i.e. consumers – or as I prefer to call them: people – things start to get a little bit more complicated.
Too often, what brands set out to accomplish is out of whack with what any group of people outside the brand would be interested in.
Brands need a method for aligning what’s important to the brand with what’s important to the community of potential participants.
This approach has four parts, which synch with our guiding questions of Who, What, How, and Why.
What is the shared interest that brings these people together and defines their collective identity? (Hint: the answer is not “our brand”)
What is an aspect of our world that this community would be inspired to help change? (Hint: it can be big or small, as long as it’s a specific outcome that is inspiring to the community)
What are the beliefs that guide this community’s decisions? (Hint: look at the kinds of information that strengthen bonds between members and gives members status within the group)
What are the common modes of interaction and communication within the community? (Hint: pay closer attention to what people do, than to the platforms that enable it)
Once you’ve developed a deep and comprehensive understanding of the network of people you want to work with, you’re ready to begin building the experience.
At MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence, researchers Thomas W. Malone, Robert Laubacher, Chrysanthos Dellarocas, and Greg Little, have spent the last four years analyzing examples of collective intelligence enabled by the internet, and have developed a model they call The Collective Intelligence Genome (I highly recommend that you download and read the full paper available here.)
I’ve adapted their model slightly to be a bit more suited to marketing. I’ve renamed the four pillars: Goal, Participants, Tools/Methods, and Motivations. And I’ve expanded their list of Why genes beyond just Money, Love, and Glory in order to encourage a more holistic approach to thinking about what a community will find compelling. The Motivation genes I list were adapted from Jane McGonigal’s research on why people play games, and Daren C. Brabham’s research on the Threadless community.
Goal: What specific collective action is the group contributing to?
- Create – the group needs to create something new
- Decide – the group needs to choose
Participants: Who is the group of people who will be working together?
- Crowd – a loosely organized, widely distributed group of people, typically unrestrained by place or time
- Hierarchy – a group organized by a management structure, with specific roles and responsibilities for each participant
Motivations: Why will each person within this network be compelled to participate?
- Money – in exchange for a monetary reward
- Glory – for the opportunity to gain public recognition
- Expertise – to hone their skills and get better at what they do
- Social – to spend time with people they like
- Satisfying work – the feeling of accomplishing meaningful tasks
- Be part of something bigger – the sense that they are contributing to something bigger than themselves
- Personal passion – because this is something that they love to do
Tools/Methods: How will the group be enabled to participate?
- Collection – each participant contributes in small pieces on their own
- Contest – used when there is a limit on how much needs to be created
- Collaboration – used when individual contributions necessarily affect each other
(Tools/Methods: Decide – Group Decisions)
- Voting – each participant votes for their favorite choice, most votes wins
- Averaging – each participant rates independently, and the aggregate ratings are averaged for a final rating
- Consensus – participants engage in direct dialogue with each other to agree on a precise outcome
- Prediction Market – participants place bets on what they expect to happen
(Tools/Methods: Decide – Individual Decisions)
- Market – participants spend money to express their choices
- Social Network – participants trade in social currency to guide and express their choices
These elements, or genes, can be thought of as ingredients to be mixed and matched in endless combinations to create experiences suited to different needs and project exigencies.
Our powers combined… we end up with an actionable framework for designing experiences to catalyze collective action among a network of individuals connected by a common interest, aligned with the interest of the brand, that looks something like this:
Thank you for making it to the end. You’ve just earned 1,000 Bonus points for determination!
This is still a work in progress. Comments are very welcome. What are example of this that you’ve seen or built yourself? What questions arise as you attempt to put this into action? What other thoughts can you share?