What are the core values of the MIX?
As I started thinking about the community of passion we are building right here at the MIX, I thought I’d end 2010 with a few thoughts on how we might ensure we continue to build a healthy, thriving community around this site in 2011.
In my experience, the best communities usually share three key characteristics:
1. A core mission understood by all members
2. A deeply held set of values that guides members’ interactions within the community
3. An architecture of participation that allows members to easily communicate, collaborate, create, and grow together
Looking at these three characteristics, it is clear that the MIX has #1 nailed. I’d be surprised if there was anyone contributing to the MIX who didn’t deeply believe in the need to reinvent management (after all, if you are OK with the management status quo, you have plenty of other places you can go to experience it instead).
I’d also argue that, for a program launched less than a year ago, the MIX has a pretty impressive architecture of participation. While I’m sure all of us could suggest plenty of new website features, programatic improvements, and other neat stuff we could add to make the MIX better and more functional for contributors, the fact is that people are contributing and a robust community is emerging (a side note: if you have ideas for improving the MIX, you can always suggest them here).
But the second characteristic, a deeply held set of values, is less clear for me. I’m a big fan of Jim Collins and Jerry Porras’s thinking about core values (check out their book Built to Last, chapters 3 and 11 in particular to learn more). Collins and Porras would say that true organizational values aren’t decided by executive fiat, but instead emerge from within, lived by those with the closest, deepest connection to the underlying culture. True values are discovered rather than created.
My view? The values of the MIX community are still emerging. But there's no better time for us to start discovering them.
Take this hack, jointly posted in October by two key MIX contributors Dan Oestreich and Annie McQuade, as a starting point. It’s kind of a “meta-hack” in that it is an attempt to start a discussion about what I might characterize as community values.
Dan and Annie express concern about what they view as a trend toward debating, defending, and challenging on the MIX instead of encouraging collaboration and trust. In their words:
“This hack is an open invitation to share your ideas on how to now move beyond our “contest culture” to one of greater mutual support, partnership, joint action and meaningful exploration. This is an invitation to trust.”
I share their concerns. I’m a believer in and practitioner of what is labelled by many people as design thinking. I’d argue that what we are doing on the MIX right now is what many design thinking proponents call ideation (fancy term) or brainstorming (simple term). During ideation, the goal is to generate as many ideas as possible but--this is important-- not to judge or debate ideas. Don’t like someone else’s idea? Rather than criticize or point out its flaws, suggest another idea you think is better.
Design thinkers live by Linus Pauling’s famous quote, “The best way to a good idea is to have lots of ideas.”
My corollary? The best way to prevent good ideas is to criticize the ideas of others.
Why? Because people become hesitant to share their ideas when they fear criticism or ridicule. They’ll wait to share until they think the ideas are bulletproof... and that time may never come.
So if we are really trying to build something here on the MIX, I believe it’d make sense for our community to embrace the spirit of building in our interactions on the site. Maybe I’m suggesting the spirit of “building” as an core community value I could see emerging out of our MIX community.
I’d be interested in your thoughts. Do you think this value resonates with our mission? I also like Annie and Dan's idea that trust could be a core value. And there are certainly plenty of ideas to consider in The MIX Manifesto and on the What is the MIX? page.
I'm sure there are other potential core values you have seen emerge during this first year. Perhaps as we end our first year as contributors, it marks a good time to start a conversation:
What are the core values of the MIX?