Monday, November 3, 2008

Work and Leadership

The human needs for self esteem and self actualization are most often expressed in productive activity (work). Social activity found outside of production cannot be sustained for long. A key element of e-commerce sites' success in building solid, permanent communities lies in the ability to provide work, not only in the form of employment, but also by providing volunteer opportunities both formal and informal. Gaming sites serve as non commercial examples of this theory since they enable their members to engage with others in cooperative (albeit competitive), meaningful activity that creates leadership opportunities along with development of community roles and activity over time.

Although members may chat frivolously with one another, they often perform work related tasks in the background or are passing time while waiting for an opportunity to answer questions, work on marketing strategies or communicating with their customers. The variety of informational needs of other members creates unlimited opportunities for sharing knowledge and experience. By doing so, volunteers earn respect and solidify their role as a valuable contributor to the site. Here again, is a reason for providing naming conventions that are thematic or metaphorical rather than specialized. General topic forums provide greater opportunity for a larger number of individuals to contribute in a variety of forms. In addition, functional interaction provides a gateway for new members who want to gain entry into an existing community. By asking for help, sharing an experience or contributing to group knowledge a newcomer begins establishing a role for themselves as an indispensable partner in the community from the very first post. In fact, the hunger to share knowledge and be seen as a resource can be so compelling that members will often compete to be the first to answer any question. Answer centers are built on this premise because they provide numerous opportunities for both meaningful work and establishing a reputation.

In every functioning community individuals demonstrate their appreciation for success by giving back to others. Altruism has been shown to be a fundamental success strategy for human groups leading to enhanced success for the individual as well as cementing bonds through meaningful cooperation. Sharing information aids in evangelizing the general culture along with promoting trust. People who approach community with service as a goal often find that it brings well deserved rewards.

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