Leverage the surroundings to impact online community member creativity

Leverage the surroundings to impact online community member creativity

Last week, I went to visit my ageing parents, they are 72 and 74 and they live in a village in Cyprus (where I grew up) situated in the Troodos mountain range at an elevation of 1200 meters. I was sitting on a spacious veranda being surrounded by pine trees with ripe grapes hanging overhead on a structure that provides shadow from the ruthless Cyprus summer sun.

The view included the Mediterranean Sea – southern coast of Cyprus - at a straight-line distance of 15-20 miles; compare that with my view of the red brick wall in our open plan office in London.

Listening to the smooth wind blow through over 100 year old pine trees can have a soothing effect and a surge in creativity; the surge probably has to do with the change of perspective in a very literal sense. This is a technique used in market research for physical focus groups or ideation groups. We got people to sit on bean bags, we got them to touch each other on the head, take off their shoes – even if they had holes in their socks :) ; we would do anything to take them out of their comfort zone in order to trigger innovative thinking. Even then, you are confined to a four wall construct (physical constraints), time constraints and the need to conform to some sort of unnecessary formalities which can hinder the creativity and authenticity of responses; this is where online methods of market research differ.

Change your view to change your view

I think one of the useful ideas that came up during my change of perspective last week is to encourage private online community participants in co-creation projects to change their usual environment when they work with us.

Albert Einstein once said: "You cannot solve a problem with the same mind that created it."

Instead of sitting in the same room where they usually sit when they are connected to the internet at home, they could consider some of the following ways to change their perspective and their right brain hemisphere activity:

- Change the place they would normally sit in the room and face a different direction
- Change the room they would normally sit in at home
- Sit in the garden or a balcony if available
- If they do not necessarily need a quiet space - should they be involved in an asynchronous bulletin board discussion, or a live focus group (using chat) - they can go to a nice Café with internet access
- Use their parents’ or a friend’s house
- Use their local library

In this day and age, with the advances in technology, the notion of a ‘virtual office’ is very much a reality for many people; I find myself truly enjoying working a full day’s work next to a swimming pool or amidst pine trees at a summer resort in the mountains. We were laughing at the office the week before when a colleague mentioned that WIFI was added to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs as one of the basic needs along with nourishment and security :) ! Once this is available, all one needs is: a device that connects to the web, power and a pair of headphones. A download speed of 3 Mb/s and upload speed of 0.8 Mb/s is what I had at my parents’ house which was more than enough to use Cisco Webex for online meetings. The upload speed was just about enough to stream audio and a double visual stream - my webcam and slides – from a small village in the mountains of Cyprus to Dallas, Boga Raton, Washington DC, Manchester, London and Nicosia.

How the office without walls helped me

I would also like to attribute the win of a major multinational social media listening project involving 6 languages in 6 countries to the fact that I changed perspective - I am curious if you buy this; it is a very exciting project for a multinational fast moving consumer goods manufacturer for automated high accuracy sentiment analysis by discussion topic and brands. I will stretch the argument a bit further and say that the list of benefits of my change of perspective while I was working last week includes:

- A successful online demo of communities247 - the private online communities platform of DigitalMR for co-creation, insights and customer advocacy - to a large private market research agency in the US. We explored the possibility of them joining our partner programme of market research agencies that will use and/or resell the communities247 platform.
- A very productive bi-monthly advisory board call with 8 members from four different countries about our series A funding strategy and tactics.
- A very positive (truly global) call with colleagues using Skype: two of us were in Cyprus, one in China, one in Poland and one in the UK! For a company with a total of 8 full time employees, I would say this is pretty remarkable.

In closing…

True to the argument of this post as I write the last couple of sentences, yet again confined by walls, a table and a chair, I look out of my window and I see the glaciers of the Alps, from 35,000 feet, on my way to London.

As always, I am very interested to connect with you and hear your experiences and views on the subject; I hope we can talk soon…in person.


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