Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 14: What is a Community?

Some might suggest a dictionary is the best place to find the definition of the word “community.” Others might point to the entry in Wikipedia. After reading, Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Community, it is readily apparent that the definition depends upon the context in which you are using that word.

You no longer have to live in the same town, nor have direct personal and business contacts, or vote in the same local election to be part of a community. The Internet, e-mail, and other technologies have really broadened what constitutes a community and how many members can belong at any particular time. Also a member of a virtual community takes many forms including being an observer, a registered member, an active participant, and a community administrator. The form can change in an instant. Unlike geographic communities, there are often few ties (a job, home, family, etc.) which bind you tightly. You can simply leave that community and go to another if it doesn’t serve you well.

What do you look for in a virtual community? How about a mission statement you feel comfortable with, that the members believe in, and try to follow. Throw in a code of ethics and list of responsibilities for all its members and participants, including advertisers? How about transparency and full disclosure? And like some geographic communities, security, comfort, and diversity. Deep down a community that promotes the common good, while still encouraging, within reason, self-interest.

Much of business is obtained from referrals. In my experience, writing about CPA firms for many years, they were often the result of a CPA’s relationship building skills with clients and other professionals in the immediate geographic area. The problem is those geographic communities don’t have the stability they once had. Globalization, changing economic conditions, and technology are decimating some communities and creating new ones, often at a dizzying rate.

What communities you belong too is an important decision. In the past, it often revolved around the geographic location and great thought and due diligence would occur before joining a particular community. Because of the ready instant access and the need to participate within these virtual communities, I believe similar standards should be applied in selecting all the communities that we “live” in.

© 2010
The above is from the newsletter, Howard’s Inner Circle, which periodically appears on the blog, “Instigator” at http://howardwolosky.blogspot.com/. It may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky is credited as the author.

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