Cultivating engagement: what do you want to create?


This is the 9th and final post in my short series of moving from the idea of cultivating engagement to getting in action on doing so.   We’ve previously explored the following questions and issues associated with cultivating engagement.

  1. What was the catalyst?
  2. What do you care about?
  3. How might you like to contribute?
  4. What do you need/want to learn?
  5. How would you like to learn it?
  6. Let’s talk about connections.
  7. Moving beyond just consuming content.
  8. How can we best communicate with you?

For most organizations, applying the answers to these questions on a consistent basis should significantly increase the overall level of member engagement within their community.

Increasingly though, and perhaps most attractive to Millennials and the generation that will follow them, cultivating engagement will require us understand an swers to an additional questions:  What would you like to create?  As Business Innovation Factory founder Saul Kaplan aptly notes, we need to upgrade our organizational operating software from “making it easier for people to buy something to making it easier for people to make something." 

Signs of this generational shift to more of a “make it myself” mindset are everywhere:  Trade School, DIYU, the increased interest in urban farming and collaborative consumption, and MAKE magazine, to name just a few.  Chris Anderson’s new book, Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, explores how the rapid democratization of 3-D printers will engage individuals in creative efforts that only organizations could previously afford.  Considering how to respond to these disparate cues around us may require applying what Roger Martin refers to as abductive logic in which we "… creatively assemble the disparate experiences and bits of data that seem relevant in order to make an inference—a logical leap—to the best possible conclusion.” 

A logical leap is to shift our organizational approach from exclusively doing something to/for members to co-creating value with them ... and to support them convening and co-creating with each other under the auspices of our organizations.  We’ll have to become more adept at simultaneously being value providers for those who still looking to buy finished solutions, as well as facilitators of value creation for those more interest in self-service and individual initiative.  A good example of this is TED: you can attend the main event in person, you can have your own event by watching their videos and engaging in the comments community online, or you can join with others and sponsor a TEDx independently organized event using the templates and tools TED provides you. 

We’ve all long known that people support what they help create.  When we become the facilitator of members’ creative efforts, they’ll likely further support the organization that made the creation possible.  For many, we need to become more of the platform and less of the producer.  The ultimate cultivator of engagement may not be the products or programs we provide but the processes we facilitate to help individuals come together and create them in community with each other.
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I hope you have found this series to be useful.  As I’ve noted in previous posts, I’m exploring this concept as a generalist.  Specialists in membership, communications, and technology can certainly improve upon my ideas with their more focused expertise.

My bottom line though is simple: do something.  The interests, intentions, and attention of those we serve is too valuable for us to not start experimenting our way into how to better engage them in a more robust and rewarding experience.

In other words, let’s quit talking about how to cultivate member engagement and get more engaged in the acts of cultivation themselves.  I’d be happy to help you do so.