Companies Should Build Teams Not Communities

Companies Should Build Teams Not CommunitiesRecently, I posted a response to all the wonderful comments and contributions that you all made to my last post on “Why Companies Shouldn’t Build Online Communities“. As I plan to delve further into this idea of “Social Teams”, I thought I’d re-post that reply as a post in its own right so as to make it easier for people to find and read – so here goes:

Dear All,

Many, many thanks for your responses – they’re both very welcome and very appreciated. I wanted to take some time to reply to some of the concerns that were expressed in the comments.

It seemed that many of you think I was advocating that companies should no longer value the input of large groups of people. Far from it – the main point in the post was to point out that as a structure for large groups of people, the community concept is a flawed one – at least from a corporate perspective. It’s simplistic, unstructured, and lacking in motivation and purpose to name but a few flaws.

That’s not to say that value can’t be created in a community setting – it’s just very hard to do so because you’re relying on value being created through serendipitous interactions between community members. It’s not unlike advocating participating in the lottery as your prime way of getting rich – sure, it’s possible that you could hit the jackpot if you take part, but only a fool would rely on that as their sole chance at fame and fortune.

Likewise, whilst there is definitely a place for serendipity in an organization (more on that in a future post) – it would be a foolish management team that would rely on its occurrence to generate value for the company. My argument instead is that the team framework is a much more robust and reliable one when it comes to generating value for a company. In fact, in the few cases where looser community based initiatives have created value, I’ve found it’s usually because they began to adopt the characteristics and roles of a Social Team – namely things like purpose, direction, shared goals, diversity in skill sets and specialized roles, etc.

You could also make a good argument based on semantics – ie, that a Social Team is merely a type of Community; however, I think it would be equally valid to say that a community is simply a dysfunctional Social Team.

I think it’s also important to point out I focus on strategies and processes specifically to drive corporate value. Whilst I believe the Social Team concept still holds and still works in more social groups, the concept of what constitutes value and the expectation of it being created in those groups is very different to that of a large enterprise investing in this area.

Companies invest real money as well as intellectual capital into creating and participating in these networks, and as such, need to see a reasonable return, ideally on the bottom line to justify investing in these initiatives.

Having said that, my core belief is still that people function and perform better with a degree of organization when compared to loose collectives. In addition, the visualization aid that thinking of these groups in a similar fashion to that of a sports team, gives us to analyze and improve the quality of that interaction is invaluable.

Check out this post on Social Teams for more on the subject. Keep your comments coming!

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Boris PluskowskiBoris Pluskowski is the Founder of The Complete Innovator where he regularly shares new ideas and best practices on how big companies can harness Innovation, Collaboration and Social Media to drive new sources of value throughout the enterprise.

Boris Pluskowski




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  1. Bertrand Duperrin on November 2, 2010 at 9:07 am

    I could not agree more. There’s too much expectations towards communities as the future of anything and the cure against all business diseases.

    Both teams and communities can create value and should articulate but things have to me made to maximize the chances of winning the lottery. You may be interested by this post by Rex Lee ( ) or this old oned by me ( )

    Communities are not a cure-all. They may be problem solvers or source of inspirations for teams but teams will remain those who drive value because business processes are executed by teams. A good articulation (usaages / social routine) is required to ensure that teams will transform the potential of community activities into tangible value.

    Thanks again for is insightful post.

  2. kare anderson on November 3, 2010 at 1:44 pm

    Congrats on stirring and facilitating this discussion. As people in groups as diverse as Saddleback Church an the flattened, decentralized illicit groups (drug, guns, human trafficking as cover in bk Illicit) encouraging small groups/teams within a strong, large community enhances the strength of both

  3. Boris Pluskowski on November 19, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    Bertrand, Kare – thank you both for your comments – much appreciated 🙂

    You might both be interested in the follow on post to this on Social Teams – which goes on to pose the structure for how teams work together to create value – as well as what I think is the ultimate position of teams versus communities – We “exist” in Communities, but we “achieve” as a Team”.

    Bertrand, thank you for your links, I’ll make sure to look at them!



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