Do we really need another “thought piece” about the power of community? Really, after “Nice ties”, “spinning greased grooves” and “Bee-lieving”, can a person "creatively" write more about community benefits? I suppose putting this to a vote within the community could answer the question. However, as I have discovered more about the science behind a community, more analogies pop into my brain. Keeping these thoughts inside my brain is difficult. Either my brain is too small or has too many thoughts – likely both. So, just in case someone needs a new analogy to explain community, here we go!
After reading the awesome Bell Lab research supplied by Jem Janik it occurs to me that “questions” can be viewed as an individual entity seeking a “match”. Much like a proton and electrons attract each other due to positive and negative charges, similarly, an interesting question will attract an answer. From a community perspective, we want an environment conducive to these pairings.
Remember, “Bill Nye, Science Guy”? His television show demonstrated and explained scientific principals using common, everyday objects. His theme; knowledge can be found everywhere. All it takes is an inquisitive mind open for discovery. With a little imagination, you could consider good old Bill was a community manager. His daily goal was imparting knowledge and sharing experiences with his “community”. As community managers, we provide a place where seekers find knowledge.
In order to provide answers to questions; a place where knowledge can be found and shared, we need tools to create this environment. To illustrate, channel your inner Bill Nye as we call upon science. At its essence, knowledge is change. You start with one information element; add another element - voilà – a new understanding or experience is created. In nature, to create something “new”, there must be a chemical reaction. This is a process leading to the transformation of one set of chemical substances (reactants) to another. Two or more “reactants” are chemically combined creating properties different than the two original “reactants”. To form the new chemical bond, each reactant bond must be broken.
For communities to accelerate knowledge, we need a plethora of chemical reactions (questions bonding with answers). Facilitating these “chemical reactions” is the role of a community, especially the tool enabling the community. “Collision theory” provides a useful analogy for this. “Collision theory” states only a certain percentage of particle collisions result in bond breakage to form new bonds. In community terms, not all questions are paired with an answer. Or, not all members find the information sought.
To help facilitate successful collisions, a catalyst can be introduced. “When a catalyst is involved in the collision between the reactant molecules, less energy is required for the chemical change to take place, and hence more collisions have sufficient energy for reaction to occur. The reaction rate therefore increases.” It’s important to note chemical reactions require innumerable collisions to form a new substance.
In knowledge terms, a “catalyst” increases our successful collisions and reaction rates. Guess what the “catalyst” can be considered? Yep - the systems and people enabling the community. So, to create more collisions (questions/answers), creating more and faster change (knowledge), we need tools like Jive and skilled community mangers. We can all be "Bill Nye, Science guy".
The end result from these collisions and chemical reactions, a new substance has been created. At its essence, a community is a new entity previously existing as un-tethered, unconnected knowledge seekers and knowledge sharers. The community is the result of collisions between questions, answers and thoughts coalescing into a new substance; a new “body of knowledge”.
By the way, when reactants are combined, creating a new substance, the new substance weighs less than the sum of each reactant individually weighed. This is called “mass deficit”. Assuming, knowledge is a new substance and questions are replaced with knowledge, theoretically, the more knowledge you acquire, the less your “mind” can weigh. Possibly, with so much knowledge, your mind could wind up “in the clouds”. So, if someone tells you, “your head is in the clouds”, that is a very nice compliment!