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Virtual versus Physical Communities

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The advent of virtual communities and their influence on shaping the workforce in undeniable.  What started ages ago with people talking over the phone but perhaps never meeting has turned into true communities where people can identify themselves with groups of people based on semi-unique traits.  Within our organizations, this can simply mean “I belong to sales” or “I worked on Project X.”  However, more and more it also means that we can search out people with unique capabilities to augment our teams with skills that are increasingly evident in other employees.

Our workplace is now inexorably shaped by both physical and virtual communities – so much so that often the boundaries are quite blurred, and that blurring will only become more opaque as time goes on.

Andrew points us in a great article by John Hegel who tries to explain some of the characteristics of virtual communities:

Vitural communities inexorably seek to extend their interactions into physical space and a complex interweaving of physical and virtual communities occurs over time.  ((Hagel, John, March, 31, 2007.  “Community 2.0.”  Retrieved from on April 3, 2007.))

Why is this important to HR you ask?  The obvious is in recruitment where candidates are sourced and lost to the web of easily found job opportunities.  But that’s not what I’m concerned about.  I’m very concerned that HR has not found it’s place in how our businesses actually research, develop, create, and innovate around new products.  After all, we do provide the talent that drives our businesses.  And when we talk about talent management, we aren’t only talking about making sure our employees are happy and engaged to perform well, but should we not have a vested interest in seeing that they also have the right tools and organizational connections to do their jobs most effectively?

I have and will be talking a lot about innovation and collaboration networks.  How we can use data to understand our workforce and in turn, help our workforce identify opportunities within itself will be key to our future success.  It’s part of the big HR cliché of “having a seat at the table.”  I’m not saying that we should be driving virtual communities and innovation networks, but we should definitely have a part in shaping their design and use.

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2 responses to “Virtual versus Physical Communities”

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  2. Lavinia Weissman Avatar

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