I love everything about spaghetti. I love throwing it on the wall to see if it’s cooked. I love slurping the long noodles straight from my plate down my gullet. I even love wiping the excess sauce from my chin. (I’m getting hungry!) Spaghetti is a great meal but as a collaboration strategy, not so much. For that, you definitely need lasagna.

We’ve been working with a lot of folks to design and build internal communities. Some want them to drive customer experience; others want them as part of their reputation management programs. Many are most interested in using them for collaboration and knowledge management. They realize that their current cultures don’t facilitate change. As they move away from a transactional relationship with customers to being more customer-driven, they want their culture to morph into one of rapid innovation and growth. Internal communities can be an accelerant of change and offer a new model of collaboration with internal teams as well as with outside stakeholders. Communities provide a horizontal cut across the silos that stunt growth cultures.

As organizations adopt a more inclusive business model, they find that their knowledge and intellectual capital is stored in virtual vaults across the globe. This is the preverbal spaghetti bowl of resources with no elegant way to get to them. Despite spending quizillions of dollars on CMS, ERP, CRM, knowledge management systems and other ways to centralize and organize organizational knowledge, access to pertinent research, studies, background and strategy documents remains elusive Worse, the person sitting in the cube down the hall may have oodles of expertise locked in h/her head and the person who needs it has no way of knowing.

This is when my thoughts turn to lasagna. All those skinny noodles of information need to be merged into a single lasagna noodle. A well designed community can blend the best of social networking with access to multiple content management systems to yield an easier way to tap internal experts, access pertinent content in one place and manage projects and teams. The social tools of community can quickly winnow ideas and concepts, uncover and dispense with roadblocks, encourage sharing across silos and reward innovation and growth in a personal and meaningful way.

A simple but elegant design is just the starting point of any successful community. As with external communities, advocates are the heartbeat of the community. Or, maybe in this case, they’re the meat sauce! Advocates organize, mentor, collect and share information from multiple sources, step up when either leadership or expertise is needed and model new, desired behaviors. While the lasagna noodle is the unified infrastructure that provides a single platform for community functionality and content access, the advocates are the spice that gives the community its flavor and zest. Others gravitate because of their energy, but stay because they collaborate in a more meaningful, efficient way. So while I’ll continue to slurp spaghetti from time to time, I’m definitely going for the lasagna when building communities. Next week, I’ll tell you about strawberry mess.

Kathy Baughman
Kathy Baughman

Kathy’s forte is enterprise content strategy, content marketing and thought leadership. Over the past 40 years, she has worked with both emerging brands and large enterprises in developing content and thought leadership strategies. She has written several research reports, white papers and has been a key contributor to Forbes Publish or Perish Report.