Too busy to read this blog...well I’ve got your back friend. I’ve recorded an audio clip, so you can listen to it easily.
But after we chatted I reflected on the lessons I learned about how to create connection and community in my business from living in a remote village in the Philippines.
Back in 2014, I traveled there as part of my master's research to conduct a visual ethnography in a remote area near the Blos River on the eastern side of the Northern Sierra Madre mountain range.
This particular region is the largest protected area in the Philippines. At the time, the Northern Sierra Madre Natural Park had been minimally affected by modern cultures and access to this region was limited.
There were no roads that connected the region to mainland Luzon. The area where I stayed had no running water, electricity, Internet, or cell service. And it was only accessible via boat or small propeller plane. Not to mention the people didn’t speak English. In fact, the majority of them didn’t even speak the national language Tagalog.
With the help of an amazing translator and guide, I was able to glean so much from this experience. And it taught me so much about how to create connections and community.
Two things that I believe are vital for starting, growing, and scaling businesses. Our ability to connect with our audience and create a space where people feel like they belong is important.
Especially in a hyper-connected world where I feel the connection and community are lost sometimes for various reasons. That is why I want to share the three things that conducting foreign research in a remote area taught me about how-to build connection and community in your business.
Travelling, in general, will challenge your western sense of time. You know... everything is on a schedule and if people (or things) aren’t on time we get pissed off. Also, that need for immediate gratification and the attitude of I want it now.
After waiting an entire day (i.e., 8 hours) in an office to gain approval to travel to the remote village only to be told to come back tomorrow made I realize pretty quickly that my western sense of time was very different. This example is one of many.
So the biggest lesson learned was my timeline didn’t matter. Even though I had three months to complete my research, a master's degree on the line and loads of money and time already invested. The pressure to get things done on my timeline was real.
But my pressure, my timeline had no bearing on the community I was researching. The same is true for your audience. You need to create 10K months, 6-figure years, or a 1MIL dollar business in XYZ time frame has no bearing on your audience. Meaning your timeline doesn’t matter to them. And if you want to create connection and community you’ll learn to embrace your audience's timeline.
Watch what happens when you focus on helping your audience to meet their goals versus trying to fit them into achieving your goals.
As my guide watched me planting rice, I realized that showing interest in his life mattered. It was also in the many shared moments like this one that allowed me to develop a know, like, and trust among the people.
It was also in these moments that I learned the most.
I mean when do people feel most comfortable?
In their comfort zone.
So sitting in their house asking them a list of questions didn’t give me the true essence of what they were experiencing like it did when we were cooking meals, planting rice, going fishing, walking from village to village, playing with the kids, and sitting around the fire.
I’m not saying you have to go visit them, but how can you take the same concept (or idea) to create that connection and community in your business.
Perhaps, you host a virtual pizza party once a quarter or host a virtual meet-up over cocktails. Get creative!
Anyone who has written a thesis knows the amount of research that goes into writing a proposal to have their research concept approved. So before traveling to the Philippines I had a detailed plan of what I wanted to learn.
Let’s just say that was thrown out the window within days of landing in the country.
Because foreign research is highly unpredictable. And what I thought I wanted to learn shifted once I was there and started to listen to the people and learn about their lived experiences.
Your audience is the same. We can create a plan based on our own goals but we have to stay open and nimble.
If I was rigid I would have missed the nuances, stories, and a real opportunity for understanding. Imposing our rigid expectations and beliefs on others prevents us from truly forming deep connections, and creating a sense of belonging.
You and I both know how important it is to create connection and community in your business. So I’d love to hear how things are going as you try these out.