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What is a Digital “Community’?

Braided Teams for a Digital Connection

I find it compelling and a bit disturbing that the more connected we become the more isolated we become. It’s no mystery that Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social networks have connected more people together than could have ever been imaged 15-20 years ago. It’s also no mystery that making these connections doesn’t require that we are ever in the same room together. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not some baby boomer complaining about technology, I think the benefits are overwhelming. The “good old days” weren’t always necessarily that good. What I found to be a mystery, or at least a little surprising, is the under-the-radar affect digital transformation has on business.

Lean practitioners have fought for years to overcome the functional silo mentality and pushed to be “process focused” across all functions and all levels. We pushed that CI and innovation require a “community”. We got people into a room and worked as a team to solve a problem or achieve a pre-defined target.

I recently interviewed a senior executive of one of the largest global automobile OEM suppliers who are also on the forefront of the digital transformation. He has observed that the unanticipated consequence of the digital transformation is that the organization is now more siloed than ever and are returning to the functional “islands.”  So the question becomes “how do maintain a community in a digital world?”

I believe that Theano Advisors/MAEX Partners in Germany may have an answer; create braids. The dictionary defines braids as “forming an interlacing network of channels”. What’s the difference between braided collaboration and traditional collaboration? Traditionally we get a restricted number of employees working together as a team on a well-defined mission in an event with predetermined objectives and measurements bounded by the bureaucracy. Most of the sharing is within the team or within the hierarchy. In a braided team, an unrestricted number of autonomous employees share and network in a combination of in-person and online platform interactions working toward a common goal while busy with the daily business. No separation from the goal and daily business. Braided teams are transparent to the organization, can automatically adapt to changing circumstances, are freed from bureaucracy and empowered to “hack the system.”

I likely have oversimplified the differences. I don’t claim to be the definitive resource, I’m still a student of braided organizations. I’m simply surfacing that our definition of “community” is rapidly changing and reinforces what I have said repeatedly, “connectivity is the competitive advantage.”

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