Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Start your online community or network the Tiësto way

Thanks to a column by Dutch management writer Ben Tiggelaar I learned about the working style of DJ Tiësto. He explains: "I start the evening with some different kind of music and various styles to see what is right for the audience. The styles that get the best response, is the way I continue."

I was struck by the similarities in the practices we've developed over the years in starting learning networks, especially online. Typically I propose to start a shorter experimental cycle (maybe 4 weeks, maybe 3 months in the most recent forest landscape restoration trajectory) and at the end discuss whether and how to continue. This is much easier than asking people upfront what activities they would like, since what they state in an interview or survey may work out differently in practice.

We start with a wide range of online activities, like open questions, expert inputs, watching videos, teleconferences, virtual field visits, etc. From the interactions, you can see what kind of topics and what kind of activities are attractive for people. You can observe what triggers the most interest (though you may need statistics too). In every trajectory you see that the balance of interest towards discussing own practices or outside research/expert opinions is different. In some groups, people like to be personal and have a need to discuss their own work. In other groups, they relate more to experts bringing in new perspectives. Long stories may work in one case, but do not resonate in another.

So the key is: experiment and don't be scared to abandon a certain approach!

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