Simon Terry

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Create a Reputation Economy

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Connecting and Sharing create a reputation economy in your organisation to underpin the trust and collaboration required to Solve and Innovate.

Four topics are commonly discussed in communities around enterprise social networks:

  • Why would anyone go out of their way to help others?
  • How do we increase the value of collaboration in our organisation?
  • What is the role of leaders?
  • How do we cut down the gossip and non-work conversation in our network?

The answer to these four questions are connected to one element of successful networks: they create a reputation economy in the community that fosters collaboration.

The Value of Reputation

Humans aren’t the rational economic machines that most organisations try to manage with role descriptions, performance plans and other incentives. Humans do things outside the job description and the process every day.  We work around the hierarchy.  Importantly, we collaborate because we value relationships and we know that the returns from collaboration exceed the costs in our effort.

One of the challenges of collaboration is the danger that others will free ride on your efforts, improving their performance but bearing none of the costs. Mark Pagel’s Wired for Culture uses evolutionary approaches to behaviour to examine an important part of our defences against free riding, reputation.  Because our relationships with our work colleagues are not transactional, over time we build a level of trust and a reputation for each colleague based on their behaviour.  This reputation system influences who and how we collaborate with others.

Ever wondered why a users first ever request for help or crowd sourcing of ideas will usually struggle?  They have no reputation in the community and others will hang back until someone shows they can be trusted. 

Increasing the transparency and connection of reputation in your organisation will accelerate collaboration not just in a social network or other tool.  Collaboration across the organisation will leverage the new transparent reputations developed.

Building Reputation

We don’t build reputation with our status in the organisation or by declaring we can be trusted.  We build reputation through with who we are associated and how we act, particularly when we act against our interest.

The Connect and Share phases of the maturity of a collaboration community enable people to develop these critical stages of reputation. Working out loud for the benefit of others can accelerate that trust.  As can demonstrating and encouraging a growth mindset.   Sharing information, insights and solutions, particularly when there is no reason or benefit to the sharer is a powerful way to build a reputation.  Others sharing without penalty and preferably receiving benefits establishes the view in the community that it is safe.

The reputations and the trust built in Connect and Share are what powers the value in the later stages of the model.  People contribute later because they know that their contributions go to those who they respect and have the interests of the community at heart.

The Importance of Leaders

Leaders bring status into communities. However, as noted above, the presence of status is not enough to create or sustain trust.  Actions by leaders count.  

Leaders can play a critical role in showing the way to build reputation and in establishing that collaboration is safe and beneficial.  Importantly, leaders can use their authority to calling out free-riding behaviour and encourage participation by others. Leaders can acknowledge the reputations built in the community giving them greater influence in the organisation.

Leaders also need to be aware that their status also brings a fragility to their own personal reputations.  If they fail to act in the community to reinforce their authority, it will erode rapidly.

The Critical Role of Gossip & Non-Work Conversation

Organisations hate gossip and non-work conversation. They are seen as a threat to the singularity of corporate messaging and a waste of time.

However, gossip and non-work conversation are critical parts of reputation systems.  Gossip is how we share our views of others reputations. Non-work conversation is another way for us to share and build our reputations with others.

Create a reputation economy in your collaborative community by fostering connection and sharing.

The Value Maturity Model is an approach to enhancing the value of collaboration in your organisation.  The Model is supported by a range of tools and practices to enable leaders and community managers to maximise the potential in collaboration.  If you would like to learn more about the Value Maturity Model, get in touch with Simon Terry.


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