"Managing Volunteers in Online Production Communities"
A Simon Professor of Human-Computer Interaction
volunteer communities are increasingly important sources of production and
innovation in science, engineering and knowledge production. However, these volunteer communities have
more difficulty than conventional companies in directing their members to do
the work needed to make the community as a whole successful. This talk will
describe several empirical studies that examine the coordination strategies
online volunteers communities use to coordinate the efforts of their members
and when the strategies are successful.
These studies contrast the effectiveness of shared leadership, in which
peer-to-peer influence is exercised by a broad spectrum of members, with elite leadership, in which a small group
of core contributors influences others.
Longitudinal, correlational studies and random-assignment experiments
demonstrates that these leadership behaviors influence their recipients,
although the influence depends on the type of leadership behavior, the
legitimacy of the people delivering it and the experience of the people
receiving it. Experiments also show that
leadership behavior also influences those giving it. Assigning workers
managerial responsibilities to assess, evaluate and approve others’ work,
increases their own motivation to work, enhances their understanding of the
task domain, and helps them become better workers.
direct communication from both elite and peer leaders can be effective in
managing volunteers, if leaders exert too much control, volunteers are likely
to leave. Group goal setting is one solution to the paradox of exerting control
and yet retaining volunteers. Group goal setting works by promoting members’
identification with the group while highlighting specific and challenging goals
that would benefit the group as a whole. When people identify with a group,
they incorporate important elements of the group into their own self-concepts
and believe that events and actions that influence the welfare of the group
also influence their own welfare. In contrast to being told what to do, group
goal setting can influence volunteers to work on task that benefit the group
while also increasing volunteers’ general motivation.