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Last year I joined the Community Roundtable, which is a virtual roundtable run by community gurus Rachel Happe and Jim Storer. The roundtable was designed specifically for professionals who work for or with online communities. This week the Community Roundtable released a new study called State of Community Management – 2010 from Recognition to Exploration.  They cover a variety of topics from strategy and leadership to metrics and governance. The topic that captured my attention the most is the one of culture.  I’d like to share an excerpt  from the study:  

 

“Cultures of organizations, families, regions, and communities are based on how, why, when, and who tells its stories. Characteristics of storytelling are what define the cultural norms and accepted truths. Cultural patterns are determined by: 

  • Rigidity of who can tell stories to which other members of the group in various settings
  • Level of accepted humor, self-depreciation, sarcasm, and hyperbole
  • Defined vs. organic times to tell stories
  • Amount of literal descriptions vs. symbolic representation
  • Level of formal structure to stories vs. free-flowing form
  • How unknown factors in the environment are explained and addressed
  • Language, terms, and mechanisms used

 …The goal is not to replicate the culture of the organization within the community, but to understand where the boundaries of tone and acceptable topics are – and how much flexibility will be accepted in that regard.  However, an artifact of a strong community is that it will have some unique cultural elements that are different from the environment outside of the community. This community culture evolves over time and should be cultivated as it binds the members to the community….”

 

As I read through the findings, I kept thinking about the culture at SAP and the culture at SCN and how they are both evolving and influencing each other.SCN has just surpassed the 2 Million member mark, an achievement that we can all be proud of.  I believe that the rapid growth in our membership, tons of quality contributions every day, and the sharing and relationship building that our community fosters are all indicators that the SCN culture has evolved in a positive way. And SCN has been great for SAP.   

 

I wonder, though, when I look at the second bullet point, “level of accepted humor, etc.” How can we encourage more humor to SCN?  Maybe it’s not the first thing that comes to mind as a goal for a professional community centered around a large software company… but wouldn’t it be great if we had more of it?  

 

As Dwight Eisenhower put it: “A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done”  So, there is a serious side to humor also. 🙂

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  1. Holger Stumm
    Hi Claudine,
    I am teaching a lot of SAP classroom sessions. In earlier times, I used to get a lot of laughters from the audience and we had good times. But (still telling the same jokes) in the last two years the audience was less and less honoring that. I get more and more written comments in the final survey saying “not my sense of humour” and the likes. So I stopped telling jokes and focussing on the “Political Correct” teaching of facts. It was raising my results, but taking the fun out of teaching.
    Seriously, I think it is not about the quality of my jokes – but these times of over-reacting “political correctness” prohibits jokes, easy teaching and personal style, when you want to reach a broad and diverse community.

    Or say it the other way – if you make a joke to 2 million people, chances are, a LOT of people will be mad at you, no matter how loud the rest is laughing .

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    1. Vijay Vijayasankar
      So true, Holger.

      It makes me mad when people have to always stick to “politically correct” all the time. It makes life a whole lot less interesting. And my theory is that mass media is to blame for this behavior. They don’t cut any slack on that for the people they cover, and hence a lot of people who watch the media get accustomed to a rather dry view of life. What a pity.

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      1. Jon Reed
        It’s a shame to read Holger’s post as I think it’s indicative of a larger trend as he points out. Well, we can try to start some counterbalancing trends here. I’ll try to keep humor as more of a theme in some of my SCN work – hey, if we all do it, someone will smile. 🙂

        Claudine, thanks for the post.

        – Jon

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  2. Natascha Thomson
    …when you sell to people who have to solve serious (financially significant) problems, it’s important to find the right balance. What one person finds funny another might find offensive.

    Having said all of that, I think we could loosen up a bit and have more laughter on SCN 🙂 as everybody does a better job when they are happy.

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    1. Claudine Lagerholm Post author
      Thanks for your comment, Natascha! Yes, I agree it’s a fine balance. I thought it was interesting that the acceptance of humor was listed as a top factor that shapes a culture. 
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