I believe the community collaboration approach can be compared with a bee hive. Driving all hive activity is the egg bearer “queen”. Her presence ensures hive continuity as long as she can produce eggs. For survival, the bee hive inhabitants must funnel nectar into the hive while defending against external dangers. To ensure a thriving hive, eggs and young bees must be nurtured by all hive inhabitants. All of this activity is centralized within the hive. Newsworthy activity far from the hive returns to the hive for dissemination among the hive inhabitants via the well documented “bee dance” communication form.
While a collaborative community is not a life and death proposition, there are several similar traits to the hive. At the center of a community is a “purpose”. The community “raison d’etre” is represented by this community “queen like” analogy. An effective community is governed and driven by this purpose. Like a queen bee, the purpose directs all community activity. The purpose inherently creates “eggs” or information needs. Feeding these eggs/information needs is content produced by the community membership. These contributors travel on excursions into various corporate “flower fields”, returning with content/ideas/actions nurturing the community. While inside the community hive, the contributors also may perform “bee dance” communications sharing information among their fellow contributors.
In nature, evidence of a hive’s vitality is visible by the growth of honeycomb. A thriving hive contains an energetic, egg producing queen. Increased egg production generates increased honeycomb requirements, necessitating incremental nectar gathering. More eggs hatching produces more nectar gatherers and honeycomb makers. The hive thrives synchronous with the queen.
Community vitality is evidenced by metrics aligned with the purpose. Each community has a different purpose and metric criteria. A common metric is community adoption. A strong purpose offers an enticing community. This enticement attracts more contributors. More contributors create more content. Increased content sustains eggs/information requirements. This information is stored and nurtured within the community. Within a corporation, information is knowledge and knowledge can generate a competitive advantage. Contributing to this advantage, an effective community creates increased honeycomb/knowledge, in a centralized, easily accessible form.
If you ever need an easy to remember analogy describing community collaboration, I hope this serves that purpose.