Sunday, 17 June 2007

Trust and Participation - leaning toward a community of interest

My dissertation research has ended (see Communities of Practice, Knowledge Management and Learning for background on the research project), and I've discovered some interesting findings in relation to trust and participation.

Once again I need to point out that the size of the sample I have for my research is not statistically valid. What I do want to point out is that participants are self-selected, and interested in being part of an online community of practice - one would therefore expect results from the study to be indicative of people who WANT to be involved, rather than those who feel they SHOULD be involved.

I believe this makes the findings worth reporting.

In terms of responses, it appears that people are
  • fairly confident about posting and commenting (more confident with comments than posts I should note),
  • feel the shared blog has been useful for learning and knowledge sharing
  • feel the information they have received through the blog has been useful for their work.
However, particpation levels have been lower than one would expect from the above responses.

Why is this? I analysed the responses using the model described in Trust and Participation - and there's more. This model considers pairs of variables that will dictate the level of participation.

On mapping the participants survey responses to Nolan's model, it became clear that generally speaking, the participants are showing only a partial level of participation due to the following:

Participants perceive the blog to be more interesting than useful
Utility value being greater than interest would, according to Nolan's model, result in greater participation. If participants dont think it's useful for their job, they won't bother to get involved. This is a community of interest, rather than a community of pratice.

Participants percieve their power to influence is less than their interest in the subject
Participants are interested, but not engaged - the extent to which they feel their knowledge has an impact on others is less than their interest in the area. This again, reflects a community of interest, and would explain why levels of participation in terms of posting and commenting are lower than one would hope.

So results, whilst limited in sample size, suggest that key elements affecting participation are:
  • Trust
  • Confidence (perceived power to influence)
Unless of course Nolan's model is way off the mark. With more time, I would more fully research the validity of the model. As it is, it does indicate that my initial gut feelings about the influence of trust and confidence over participation, as indicated by the semi-structured interviews I conducted, is correct.

Again, as I said yesterday in my post Enterprise 2.0 - same problem, different platforms , if we are to leverage benefit from online community, we need to attend to the shortfall behaviours (lack of trust, lack of confidence) which prevent the realisation of the potential of Enterprise 2.0.

1 comment:

Jon said...

we need to attend to the shortfall behaviours (lack of trust, lack of confidence) which prevent the realisation of the potential of Enterprise 2.0.

It's useful to take a look at the mainstream people and process management practices and schemes, and note how they tend to reduce or diminish trust, confidence, and healthy dissent and / or non-conformity in your standard corporation.

Conventional wisdom suggests alignment with and an unrelenting focus on an organization's vision and objectives. Carried out mechanically, without the leadership arts of authentic persuasion and helping to create meaningful work, alignment and focus can create cultures that feel uncomfortably like cults, where the pressure to conform is anathemic to responsiveness, learning and innovation.

Yes, making real change on a widespread basis is likely to take time.