Something got us excited in a strategic meeting with Executive Networks the other day in San Francisco. Executive Networks is a company that builds communities of practice for executives mainly in HR.

The Community Directors were very appreciative of our Assessment Framework. They were particularly taken by the value-creation matrix (Figure 7.1, page 39). They liked the idea of integrating quantitative indicators and narratives of value creation and the fact that the usefulness of the framework is both retrospective (what learning a communities has enabled) and prospective (what learning a community may enable). In other words, the framework can be used to account for the value of an existing community and also to imagine the development of a community through potential narratives.

Assessment matrix

This prospective use of the framework – taken up by several organizations – is different from the retrospective way we had envisaged it, opening up many more opportunities for using it.

We got into brainstorming all sorts of uses for the framework as a way to make sense of the value the company is offering its existing and prospective clients.

This was exciting because we started to see the framework as a meta-learning tool, that is, a tool with which a community learns how to learn. It can help a community maximize its learning capability. By exploring various paths through the matrix, people can see what others are learning from their participation in the community. They can even discover new paths that have not been traced yet. And they can talk to sponsors, both about what people are learning, but also about what learning is possible.