I use a lot of different tools in my work every day, as I’m sure you do. Like many computer-bound professionals, I use Microsoft Office apps like Outlook, Word, Powerpoint, and Excel (although I have had a hard time
getting used to viewing Excel more as a tool and less as an adversary, but that’s another story…). I use more than one Internet browser, since each provides different kinds of efficiencies. I use a to-do list app, a social media monitoring tool and a couple of analytics tools, and I use Evernote for all my note-taking and snippet needs…oh, and Windows Media Player for tunes (as a former pro musician, music helps me focus).
As a user of each of these, am I part of a community of experience for each of them? Well, kind of.
Do I think of myself as a REAL card-carrying Member of these communities of experience (whatever that is….)? Not so much…until I need help or want to try something different with any of the tools. Then I search diligently for where the associated community hangs out online and look for some guidance.
No one I know has the time to play around with tools and services to force something. We all have timelines and milestones, and most of us want to go home at 5 PM. If someone else has done it first and better, I want to find out how they did it and model that behavior….not ‘hunt-and-peck’ around it until, hopefully, eventually, maybe I stumble across the right way to do it.
So there seems to be kind of an innovator’s dilemma when it comes to pushing your own expertise. I look to someone who knows more about it for a solution, or at least a right direction. If I don’t find a solution, I go to the community hangout and post a question. I usually find out that I’m not the first person to have asked the question, and someone points me to the right forums posts and suggests, ever so gently, that I try a more comprehensive search before posting a question.
I now have, at the least, a workable solution for my present problem….and I also have a bookmarked link for further queries about this tool. I have entered the front porch of the community. Since I’m now a newbie for this new tool or functionality, I’m very likely to revisit the site and search for more tips, some education, and, who knows, if I get a couple of more steps further along mastery, I might even be able to help another newbie.
I just moved from the front porch into the family room of the community. I start noticing who the other experts are. I start pursuing further interest in the tool and what it can do into my work. I start getting more done much more effectively……and then I discover another “tough nut” about my tool-set that I NEED to crack to finish a deliverable on-time (and on a Friday, to boot). So, guess where I go to get help?
Is this really just about learning about a tool so I can get work done? Not entirely. By gaining some degree of mastery, even if I never went back to the community for further help or to contribute, I feel good about myself and the fact that I can now do something better than I could do it before. Self-improvement…..we all glow a bit when we can do something good or cool or better than we could before. That intrinsic positive feedback is attractive to us. We are wired for it. I will want more of it, of course (if a little is good, more must be better!). Plus there is the extrinsic motivation of congratulations on a job well done, positive feedback from people and the clock (remember the “going home at 5 PM” comment earlier?).
Since I’m built to find interactivity and assistance like this irresistible, I feel being a member of a community like this also affirms my membership in the human community. This is a pretty great group to be part of.