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(originally published by Booz & Company)


The Defining Features of a Megacommunity

This network feature is clearly mirrored in megacommunity operations — which is not to say that megacommunities thrive on chaos, with no clear leadership. Indeed, in the initial stages, the megacommunity needs some person, group, or sector to precipitate, align, and catalyze the latent energies being raised. This will generally take the form of an “initiator,” or group of initiators, doing something explicit to put the elements in place. But those initiators must be prepared to cede this central leadership role as the megacommunity coalesces and grows, or they may be seen as co-opting local or other interests. Of course, each sector and organization involved continues to have its own leadership in place, and within organizations there are leaders or groups assigned to furthering and monitoring megacommunity interaction. Still, no one possesses the title of “megacommunity CEO.”

Megacommunity Leadership
In the current operating environment, leaders — business executives as well as leaders in government and civil society — need to understand the significance of their participation in systems larger than their own organizations. The megacommunity style of interdependence is more effective than conventional hierarchical forms of leadership precisely because it deliberately involves people at many levels in many forms of collaborative leadership. To succeed and sustain the system, it is better to adopt the most inclusive approach possible, and to specifically draw on the knowledge of the private, public, and civil sectors.

The recognition of the five megacommunity dynamics in this article represents a new starting point for mutual action on a local and global scale. As leaders are drawn into megacommunities, they will learn to raise new types of questions about the problems confronting them, and they will gain profoundly in their ability to successfully conceive and implement new answers.

Author Profiles:

Chris Kelly ([email protected]) is a vice president with Booz Allen in McLean, Va., focusing on policy and strategy for law enforcement, intelligence, and homeland security clients. He has a background in public–private partnerships as well as social risk management and enterprise risk management.

Mark Gerencser ([email protected]) is managing director, global government markets, with Booz Allen. Based in McLean, Va., he serves government clients worldwide. He previously led the firm’s business in information assurance and enterprise resilience.

Fernando Napolitano ([email protected]) is a vice president with Booz Allen based in Rome and managing director of the firm’s Italian office. He specializes in organizational and change leadership, and has worked extensively in telecommunications, media, and aerospace. He is a board member of Enel SpA.

Reginald Van Lee ([email protected]) is a senior vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton in New York. He co-leads the firm’s engagements focused on the not-for-profit sector and has worked extensively with private- and public-sector clients on enterprise resilience, strategic transformation, and high-performance organizational design.

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  1. Juanita Brown and David Isaacs, The World Café: Shaping Our Futures through Conversations That Matter (Berrett-Koehler, 2005): A methodology of megacommunities. Click here.
  2. Viren Doshi, Gary Schulman, and Daniel Gabaldon, “Lights! Water! Motion!” s+b, Spring 2007: How to reinvigorate our electricity, water, and transportation systems by integrating finance, governance, technology, and design. Click here.
  3. Amitai Etzioni, From Empire to Community: A New Approach to Industrial Relations (Palgrave, 2004): The founder of communitarianism posits a global society with megacommunity-like qualities. Click here.
  4. Mark Gerencser, Fernando Napolitano, and Reginald Van Lee, “The Megacommunity Manifesto,” s+b, Summer 2006: The authors make the argument that great leaders understand how to influence others in megacommunities that they are unable to control. Click here.
  5. Jane Jacobs, Systems of Survival: A Dialogue on the Moral Foundations of Commerce and Politics (Random House, 1992): The celebrated urban planner on why political and business leaders routinely misunderstand each other. Click here.
  6. Reggie Van Lee, Lisa Fabish, and Nancy McGaw, “The Value of Corporate Values,” s+b, Summer 2005: Corporate values as the foundation for organizations that want to play a bigger role in solving global problems. Click here.
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