Timeless Principles for Fostering your Business Community
Here are 7 time-tested principles that any business leader can implement for increasing the quality of a community.
My hope is that anywhere you go or new places you discover, you’ll have lenses for how communities, good and bad, operate.
1.Perimeters: The line the group draws in the sand; boundaries between members and outsiders.
2. Admitted: What activities do visitors need to perform in order to be considered a member.
3.Rituals: What acts are performed in which give a group/ community meaning.
4.Temple: Where does your community join to collaborate and commune with each other?
5.Storytelling: What metaphors, or concepts does your community use in order to deliver your messages and communicate your values, and insights to one another (members) and visitors?
6.Symbolism: The stuff that represents our identity; images; forms that are visible or invisible.
7.Inner Rings: The course that builds, molds, and develops us into the end goals we strive for in the community.
Starting out, as you build and grow your group, it’s okay to not have to apply all of these principles. In fact, a matured group that has grown over time, has all of these principles as a part of its’ cohesion.
Simply, these principles act as tools for straightening the quality of your community’s connections.
The perimeters principle:
The members of your group need to know who in the group actually shares their values, and ambitions. And on the other hand , the visitors need to know if your group is worth their time, and open to genuinely including them. These visitors, if they choose to want to join, are typically considered the rubies. They tend to want to know when in fact they have been admitted and are considered “one of the gang.” In other words a perimeter demarcates insiders from outsiders. This usually materialized in many different forms. At this point a sense of insularity from outsiders, and security that secrets are safe are some of the demarcating signs that members experience.
By marking your territory as a community, you give all of your members a sense of confidence and pride to be apart of a unique identity. It also allows members to understand one another better than they understand outsiders.
In various religions, the barriers to crossing boundaries can be very steep. For example in monastic orders there are three stages :postulate , novitiate, and juniorate. The elders of the tribe are tasked with the responsibility for assessing whether the novice is capable of following and abiding by the values, principles, and disciplines of the order. Moreover it can take years for someone to move up the ranks, so to speak.
Throughout the world, in Shamanic traditions in order to be ranked into the sacred path of priesthood, students will get rid of everything in their life ignorer to become a whole new person. This means family , friends, etc.., various other relationships, jobs, material possessions, everything. It’s pretty intense. All the more, in order to guarantee that the community is open to welcoming new members there has to be a understood path between the outsiders with shared values wanting to be included and join in on the community.
Without marking out boundaries you’ll face an all or nothing conundrum. In other words, although some communities want to be open to anyone and everyone, a well functioning community has a hard time functioning , or bringing high-quality value to the core members.
Just because, for example a religious community says that they are welcome to all joining, doesn’t exactly mean “all are welcome to member.” There are stipulations and initiation processes that are the opposite of welcoming; but in fact very restrictive, even though most leaders claim to “welcome everyone”.
I think we all probably agree that if the whole world was a part of your community — this would in fact mean that your community was undistinguished from the world. There are invitations, and norms associated with the boundaries communities lay out between outsiders and insiders, because no matter how wide you cast your net, inherent shared values must be recognized and stand out, so that your members feel stronger standing together and value over uniting.
As a community manager you need to watch out for “haters” — that threaten the group, pretending to have the same interests, likeness, and values, but in fact want to water down the rules and take over. They disdain the leaders and try to influence the followers. (I’ll speak about this in later articles.)
By marking a line for outer and inner ring differences, newcomers can feel at ease to not be pressured into being sold on joining the group/community.
Picture the communities you hold dear. Whether or not there is a formal or informal structure and authority figure, how important is it to keep things organized? And to also have a leader that doesn’t kick people out on personal preferences or random reasons, and not for disobeying the values? In other words, there has to be a leader that is quick to point out of someone is trying to bend the rules or values. But at the same time this leader or authority figure needs to use their best judgment to not disclude people on the basis of small infractions, petty concert, and personal criteria.
It’s good to encourage respectful disagreement.
Moreover, there are two major problems communities will face when demarcating boundaries. On the one hand, if your community is including — your members will feel unsafe and unimportant to the whole for abiding by the rules and upholding the values. And on the other hand, if your group and community is too insurer and exclusive — that is not allowing visitors who have shared-values from joining then the values and authority will come into question and revolted against.
That said, what are your invisible signs of boundaries and authority? How are your gatekeepers? For example some roles and privileges that members have include: scheduling events, reserving places and spaces, teaching skills , inviting newcomers, answering questions online , providing opening remarks at events and other places, etc..
What kind of online tools can you use to have your members communicate amongst each other?
How do you share in each others experiences’? what resources can you all share?
Who is welcome and who is not welcome, and how do you draw mark your circle(s)?
As time moves on, your group will have to iterate and make changes in order to mature. In fact whole countries, clubs, businesses, times and generations , develop into new communities as people change. For example, Yale University only used to allow white men into their school. All the more, in order to not be seen as racist or sexist, you’ll have to be sensitive to how times can change your group’s dynamics and “inclusion policies.”
Who are your communities informal and formal gatekeepers? How do you teach gatekeeping to new members?
2. The Indoctrination Principle: Those admitted in your community.
For visitors to feel fully accepted, and become members they need to go through an initiation.
Everyone when they join a group / community want to fully be accepted and acknowledged as someone “worthy” whom belongs. Having an indoctrination ceremony solidify and recognizes the welcoming of a new member(s) with initiation principles. This helps members and visitors take the community more seriously, and makes the significance of crossing the demarcation line from visitor to member ( or inner circle (depending on ranking structure or membership level).
Once someone is accepted , or goes from visitor to the first stage as a member, what privileges, do they gain? Do they have more to prove? If so what? An dif not why? Is your initiation process a tough hurdle? Christian baptisms, Jeish bar mitzvahs,/ bat mitzvahs, Hindu aksharabhyasams, all are examples of how indoctrinations in religious ceremonies.
3. Ritual Practices- An act that makes an event or time as special.
Meaningful practices that bind the things in the moment with the past, as you hope for the future. It’s a way for you to understand your life beyond the present moment (time and place).
This might sound like an emotional country song but it’s essential for people to experience rituals in life that matter. These are moments that we can look to or back at that overfill our life with joy , and purpose in connection to others. These events are powerful for evoking emotions — that can make us laugh and cry. because rituals bring meaning into your and others’ lives, crank up the dial in your business community for ritual intensity. This will strengthen any activity or interactions amongst your community members.
Strong healthy communities create strong rituals. This is powerful because it allows for a personalized connection trust and appreciation. Today, performing rituals is more meaningful than in times past, because the power of technology. Mothers day flowers can be personalized and transported from all around the world; halloween can [find an awesome halloween ritual story for a business]. In fact one great way to signify the importance of a ritual, is to imagine taking it away…How would people react. Would they miss it?
We treat rituals as sacred, organizing our schedules around them, looking forward to dressing up and connecting with people, etc. Rituals can also evolve naturally without anyone forcing or controlling it to happen. For example, a monthly beer at a bar with friends where you get together and converse, play board games, etc. might not be planned on a specific day on the calendar. But as time moves on and more people start to take join in and everyone mutually feels as if they would miss not getting together, a ritual is born. However, if some of the group starts to show up and favor drinking something else like coke, and disengages from a particular game you all play, the familiarity and meaning become lost, and it just becomes another hangout. All the more, there are already many formal rituals that we practice and could alter to intensify it’s significance. Take birthday ceremonies for example. Many of us have the exact same type of birthday, where it’s just a few family members and friends sharing in a nice meal, or eating a cake.
(The last four timeless principles will be explained in the next article)