Business design: Think why before you think how

Business design: I vantaggi competitivi che portano le community.

Business design: Think why before you think how

In the quest toward business innovation that promotes Business Design, many organizations think of establishing communities. Yet, many of them believe that just setting up a collaborative environment (a Facebook group, a Teams channel) is enough to have a community. Communities are a great tool for doing process, business, and service innovation, but they can only deliver competitive advantage if those who manage them are aware of the effort required to achieve those benefits.
I will say something that may seem obvious: setting a goal and following the processes required to achieve it is crucial, especially when it comes to new organizational models like communities.

It’s no longer time to improvise -I know, I’ve said it before and I’ll never get tired of repeating it. Creating and growing a community is a project in itself, and requires strategy, tactics, time and, of course, a dedicated budget.
It is also critical for both for-profit and nonprofit organizations to understand the benefits of having a community, and then to develop metrics to measure the amount of value created.

Community for Product and Service Innovation

A strong and active community can accelerate and support product and service innovation by providing a structured and ongoing system for facilitating conversations, new idea submissions, and product reviews.
In this way, companies can create an environment that accelerates and supports innovation. Of course, it is not enough to put out a call for ideas and hope that everyone will magically start submitting ideas and proposals. Instead, we need to enable a system for gathering them through a process of listening, stimulating, collecting, evaluating, and responding.
It is important to set up workflows to ensure that community members’ input is collected, considered, and respected. This cannot be a one-off process: if you really want to innovate, you need ongoing work to be incorporated into your structured business processes. This is what Lego Ideas does.

Photo credit: Lego ideas web site


Lego Ideas is a robust community that was born thirteen years ago, in 2008, when Lego was going through a period of crisis. Lego Ideas has grown over time because the company has been good at managing all stages of the process, from involving people, to selecting and implementing ideas, to establishing a system of rewards (including, for example, the possibility of becoming a Lego designer). In this way, the company has launched more than thirty products selected from ideas submitted by community members.

A new peer support service

Communities also provide a safe environment where users can interact with their peers and find answers to many of their questions. For companies, this means being able to gather information and opinions, as well as showing genuine interest in issues and openness to dialogue.

Peer support in a community is a different kind of help than what professionals or simple customer service can provide. It tends to be faster (if the community is functioning and large enough), and it uses words and phrases that are closer to users’ concerns, precisely because they are provided by other people who are likely to feel or have felt the same needs. Therefore, fostering support among community members can help companies complement traditional support models (customer care) with peer-to-peer models. In some cases, this may be to provide a complementary support channel (perhaps to answer first-level questions), or a truly new service, as in the case of the Macmillan Foundation.

The Macmillan Foundation case

The Macmillan Foundation is a non-profit organization that has created a community for people with cancer and their families. They can talk, interact and support each other. This activity supplements traditional care and allows individuals to find comfort in those who have gone through the same experiences and feel the same fears.

Photo credit: Macmillan community

A lifelong learning laboratory

Another benefit of communities is knowledge sharing. This is a goal that can be set for the product as well as for internal communities. It means, in fact, the pooling of knowledge, skills, contacts, stimuli, ideas.
It is not enough to open a repository and put all the documents in it, as it used to be the case, nor is it enough to have a conversation channel where people talk to each other, but it is necessary to create a whole ecosystem that facilitates knowledge sharing, peer collaboration and continuous learning,

The case of Miro

The Miro visual collaboration platform community devotes different spaces to the different audiences that animate and frequent it. An example of this is the forum for developers, which becomes the place to talk about new ideas for templates, to exchange pieces of code and, in this way, to innovate the product. But it is also possible to ask for peer support, to get clarification on unclear topics. In parallel, there is a system of events, workshops and other opportunities that community members can propose and run themselves. The company facilitates this both through moderation and by providing content and guides. In this way, Miro can not only grow its expertise in a continuous learning environment, but also find new talent and initiate collaborations.

Communities and business design: Scaling the product

Another business benefit that communities can bring to a company is scaling a product. This can be achieved by allowing members to add features, customize and modify the product.

Opening up the offering requires building a process for submitting, reviewing, and controlling proposals. It is necessary to organize training based on the transmission of guidelines and a system capable of measuring the quality, quantity, and variety of suggestions received before using this information for new products. After all, it is the Wikipedia model, but it is also the one that has guided Avventure nel mondo.

The example of Avventure nel mondo

Avventure nel Mondo, a company founded in the 1970s, is a typical example of how a community can help a product scale. Today, it has a catalog of more than 1,400 trips, a feat it could never have achieved without the help of the community. In fact, each trip has been proposed, tested, modified, and reworked by coordinators, who are community members selected for their travel experience.

Build trust and credibility

The final benefit is loyalty. Having a community is a way to engage clients and prospects and is extremely useful in terms of retention, because it allows people to experience the product with others, build relationships, and as a result, create or strengthen the trust that people have in the organization.

The Lululemon Example

Yoga and fitness apparel and accessories brand Lululemon positioned itself in its industry by building a community. The company cultivated a loyal following by focusing early on the yoga community and partnering with teachers and practitioners to offer classes or meditation sessions in store windows. Creating content and, more importantly, opportunities for shared experiences is a way for the company to engage, build trust, and listen and monitor people’s needs.

Photo credit: Lululemon community

The role of communities in designing new business models

A properly designed community is a valuable solution when redesigning innovative business models. Knowing the benefits that communities can provide also allows us to define the design strategies, the engagement tools, the role of different channels, the editorial plan, and so on. It is no minor task, in which the specific knowledge and skills required won’t always be available in company. The community manager, when you have one, can be of help, but you need to know how to accompany and guide him or her to foster the right direction.

If you do not know where to start, have a look at our approach, our courses and services or ir you prefer, you can send us an email.


Cover photo by Diego PH on Unsplash