Had a very interesting lunch meeting today with Bill French of MyST Technology Partners, and Jon Folkstad and Sean Kearney of Invisible Learning, where we mostly talked about technologies to build and foster community online. What was most interesting, however, was our meta-discussion about creating a brainstorming group here in the greater Denver metropolitan area where we’d meet every 2-4 weeks and explore philosophical, political, practical and technological solutions for building online communities.
We addressed one basic challenge: can you have a true brainstorming group without some level of confidentiality? We concluded that yes, you can, because, as the venture capital community likes to say, “it’s the implementation that has value, not the idea.” More importantly, though, there’s a world of difference between exploring innovative ideas with a group of bright entrepreneurs and a group of passive individuals.
So… how to ensure that the group is comprised of contributors without having a screening committee? One solution we have considered: have a questionnaire that prospective members must fill out, with a half-dozen basic questions like “what’s your background in community building”, “what one or more communities are you involved with online currently, and why do you believe that they’re successful?” and “what attributes do you believe are necessary for the next generation of online community”?
In addition, a basic set of precepts / rules for the brainstorming “club” seem like they’d be useful too, including something about whether or not confidentiality is expected, the basic terms of agreement about how we want “spin-offs” to occur (e.g., someone gets quite fired up about a business idea. Then what? Does the entire brainstorming group pursue it as a team (which seems like a bad idea) or does it spin off as a separate venture with voluntary participation?)
Suffice to say it was a most enjoyable lunch and I’m getting the vibe that we’ll definitely create something out of this. If you’re a Denver local and/or are interested in a group of this nature, stay in touch. And if you know of any groups that have addressed one or more of these issues, please do add a comment here with some pointers to how they’ve tackled these important issues. Thanks!