I posted recently a blog post encouraging community involvement and I used a classic fairy tale as the motivational allegory to illustrate a practical and easy to understand equivalency. But as I was writing the post I was struck with something that I believe I should highlight and focus on. It was too derivative of a point to draw out in the original post so I’m posting it separately as a TL;DR here. And I apologize it may be slightly longer than my typical short posts.
The story I shared was The Little Red Hen. And if you want the full story then you can read the post shared earlier. Instead, there is one line in particular I emphasized in the story as I shared it. Perhaps you caught it, probably you didn’t.
And she had an idea for something to be made.
It’s a simple short sentence and it’s right near the beginning of the story. But this line really made me think. In the story the little red hen does all the work herself and only when the product (bread) is completed does everyone else want to take part. But maybe the little red hen actually didn’t do things right. I’m not trying to point fingers, but she might not be the best community manager in the world. In fact, I might go so far as to say she’s actually quite terrible as a community manager! Let me explain.
The little red hen missed what I believe to be the single most important factor when building a community or gathering helpers to join in with her in doing the work. She neglected to share her vision.
The community manager has to do much more than tell people of work to get done. The community manager has to share the vision and encourage, inspire others to share that vision and join in a combined dream.
Imagine if the story had been written differently…
One day the Little Red Hen found a grain of wheat. And she had an idea for something to be made. She quickly called her friends: the cat, the goose, and the rat and told them she had an idea she wanted to share. When they all got together the little red hen laid out a plan. She had found a grain of wheat, but this little grain of wheat could become something incredible, something nourishing, something mouth-watering and tasty!
She told them she knew it would take hard work and a number of different steps to turn that little grain into something they could all enjoy; but if they all worked together and used their strengths they could make it.
The little red hen then did something spectacular, she asked her friends what they thought. She wanted to know if they liked her idea? Did they agree a slice of soft, hot, bread sounded delicious? What could they do to make it better? The cat said she thought she could find some butter and this made the goose realize she’d seen a jar of strawberry jam which they could spread over the bread. Even the rat began to think about what he could do and how he could help.
Now, with a shared vision and a common goal (a delicious slice of hot bread with melted butter topped with cool strawberry jam) they all knew what needed to be done and grew more excited with each step of the process. They took turns watering the seed, they shared the load carrying the wheat to the mill, they all pitched in milling the flour, and throughout the entire time they laughed and told stories and encouraged one another through the hard times….
And just like that the little red hen learned how sharing her ideas, encouraging questions, and sharing a dream helped grow a community of close-knit friends focused on working together for the greater good.
I’m not saying this is the perfect analogy and I would never suggest that a classic fairy tale was written incorrectly. But I couldn’t help but realize how easily this story could unfold differently if the little red hen had focused a bit more on communication and community.
Community management and involving others throughout a process and reaching a shared vision isn’t easy but the rewards are so much greater than sitting alone eating a piece of dry toast.