Here you’ll find ideas, observations, and conversations regarding small-scale consultancies, community and conversation design, and process automation that enables the human touch.
We don’t exclusively engage in video conferencing or teleconferencing or live text chat or asynchronous text messaging or in-person conversations. Our task is to be thoughtful regarding which mode or modes are right for the purpose and people at hand. Video conferencing may be the better choice if the focus is on relationship building and when there are more than two or three participants.
A community’s purpose provides direction and delineates boundaries. Nevertheless, its members’ motivation to invest their energy stems from their desire to achieve their individual goals. As Fabian Pfortmüller notes, “We can either embrace [that fact] and design for it or ignore it (and pay the price in the form of superficial engagement.”
Increasingly, being smart means collaborating with others who are smart in complementary ways. By curating connections and facilitating productive conversations, we’re trying to help smart individuals become even smarter together.
Becoming an effective rainmaker doesn’t mean we must conform to the stereotype of a pushy salesperson. To the contrary, winning client business is a function of demonstrating our expertise, earning prospective clients’ respect, and cultivating trust. That’s the message of Doug Fletcher, the author of “How to Win Client Business.”
Rosalie Cates advises philanthropic foundations engaged in impact investing. An independent consultant, she’s affiliated with The Giving Practice, a project of Philanthropy Northwest. I’ve been learning from Rosalie for more than 20 years. In our most recent conversation, she shared her thoughts on the centrality of mission and values, cultivating trust, and finding one’s niche as a consultant.
Gareth Pronovost of GAP Consulting is the expert I turn to for help with Airtable, the no-code database application. If you are hosting a membership community, you should be considering how to use Airtable and other no-code tools to streamline and automate your workflows. I spoke with Gareth about process automation, the no-code movement, his Airtable Mastermind community, and working through the suck when creating content that demonstrates your consulting expertise.
I had the opportunity recently to speak with Joe O’Mahoney. Joe is a Professor of Consulting at Cardiff University and is the author of a leading college textbook on consulting. Prior to his academic career, Joe was a strategy consultant. Now, he applies evidence-based lessons from his research to help small consultancies navigate the often treacherous transition from early growth to effective scaling of their firms.
Participation in your community will be unequal and inequitable. That’s because the insight that is co-produced by members through their investment of time and social capital is a public good. As such, it’s subject to the free rider problem. However, you can make participation more equal through well-designed reward systems that feature peer recognition.
Members of paid communities are more engaged, which leads to better results for the members and the host. An element of constructive exclusion is key, and the price of membership is a signal that engagement is worthwhile. There is good reason to believe that a membership price increase (up to a point) will result in higher membership and revenue over time. That said, it takes patience and courage to commit to increasing your membership fee. The alternative—a membership fee that is too low—leads nowhere fast.
The degree to which status and one’s ability to contribute are perceived to be coupled can inhibit the participation of relatively low-status persons in collaborative communities. That’s a problem because complex challenges are best tackled by cognitively diverse teams. That suffers when the conversation is limited to people who are high-performers along similar dimensions. If we wish to cultivate valuable and equitable communities, we need to find ways to help people identify and articulate the unique value they bring to the conversation.
Asynchronous communication tools enhance effective collaboration. Video is a particularly rich medium. Nevertheless, technological and social friction has inhibited the widespread adoption of asynchronous video. That is changing fast. Specialty tools are getting easier to use. More importantly, the pandemic has normalized the creation and use of video. It no longer feels so awkward to be in front of a camera. Our favorite tools—which we use every day—include Snagit, Loom, VideoAsk, Camtasia, and Vimeo.
The emphasis on collaborative, peer conversations that demand mutual trust—along with the active brokering of connections and facilitation of conversations by the host—distinguishes communities from networks and audiences. As a consultant, make your expertise visible and build an audience. At the same time, keep an eye open for opportunities to cultivate a community.