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Connecting, Contexting COPs

Sept. 8, 2022
For our industry's survival, we need to do a better job of telling our stories, demonstrating our value, separated from all the technical mumbo jumbo.

A community of practice (COP) is a group of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact.

A CoP can evolve naturally because of the members' common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created deliberately with the goal of gaining knowledge related to a specific field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop personally and professionally

Members of COPs do not have to be co-located. They can form a virtual community of practice (VCOP).

I first started writing in this column about Communities of Practice back in March of 2019. Sometimes while teaching we become the ones who are taught. From time to time, we get reminded of our roots, and in a flash, the building blocks of our industry's composition and structure are laid bare.

I followed that column much later with Contexting Our Value in May of 2022. In that second column I tried to point out that sometimes context may be more important than value.

We all are members of several communities of practice. Our COPs’ value needs to be put in a better context, one in which it may be properly considered.

In the last few years, the remote everything revolution has us interfacing virtually within our VCOPs. We now zoom about creating virtual teams talking funny using our own COP lingo. This makes it even harder for the outside world to understand our actual purpose and value. For our industry’s survival, we need to do a better job of telling our stories, demonstrating our value, separated from all the technical mumbo jumbo. 

Our technical mumbo jumbo is extremely important to us, but can be very confusing to others. Just listen to yourself when you try to explain what it is we do. In addition, our jargon-heavy messages are typically time sensitive and quickly expire often before we finish (and sometimes before we start!) the project. This creates even more confusion. Our industry resource is working to build connections, both inside and outside of our VCOP.

Our industry’s rapid evolution, as viewed through the lens of social media, seems fragmented. The way to put things in context, in a way that will make sense to ourselves as well as outsiders or newcomers, is to talk about our industry as a vast web of connected communities. In's reinvention, we are exploring how we can best Collectively, Create, Collect, Contain, Communicate, and Concisely present the Context of our Industry’s Value.

Our goal is to create a self-sustaining resource for the industry, created by the industry, for the industry, and for the world to better understand our smarter building value. believes we need this industry library/landing/launch pad for us all to display and provide the context of our hard work in a way that is constantly updated in a timely fashion.

In Sudha Jamthe’s article Connecting & Combining Communities she writes:

Separate communities are still innovating in their own fragments. By breaking the parts and recreating them each time, we are building new montages.

So we are still making progress but not as the beautiful picture painted to management from outside articles or books.

In reality, we have to bring technology into companies to solve problems with small pilots and prove our ROI without access to the full data that will create value. Especially for IoT, it creates new fragments of different clouds across different parts of the company later creating new projects to standardize technologies. That is why we see the centralization vs decentralization movement happening again and again.

In this article, AI Caramba - Mucho Mumbo Jumbo, Nicolas Waern—Digital Twin Specialist—asks, how do we turn our mumbo jumbo into something the public will read and can use to make buildings smarter? Key passage:

We need to better context what we are doing. We scare them away by thinking out loud providing too many gory details. Well and good for industry talk, but so confusing for our clients. What value do we add? They do not care how we do it as long as we do.

In this article, The Brave New BAS IP Everything has begun, Scott Cochrane, President & CEO, Cochrane Supply & Engineering, talks about areas of the industry that are seeing huge change:

For the brave who live on the edge of technology and the risk takers who dare the typical, a TORNADO has picked them out of their markets and landed them in a new place with unbelievable possibilities and huge benefits for their customers and themselves. Yes, BAS has crossed the technology bridge to IP everything and so comes the dawn of a new exciting era. Let’s dive into some areas we are seeing a huge change already.

In this interview Tracy Markie  CEO & Founder - Engenuity Systems, Inc., Chairman of the Board – LonMark International says:

“Connecting communities”  has been central to my work in both Engenuity ( and LonMark (LMI) ( for several decades.

The two organizations and my roles in both have allowed me to pursue my vision of a connected world: sometimes in surprisingly different ways and other times very synergistically.

The Digital Twin begat many new communities as outlined in this article,  Digital Twin Use Cases for Building Owners and Operators by Nicholas D. Evans, Chief Innovation Officer at WGI, and Martin Rapos, Chief Executive Officer at AKULAR. From the introduction:

In this article we outline the variety of digital twin use cases that can immediately generate added value and provide a positive investment case to owners and operators of buildings and assets. The use cases we describe range from building operations and maintenance to sustainability and energy efficiency, to safety and security, to predictive analytics and data monetization.

In our MondayLive meeting, Anno Scholten (CEO and founder of E2C Technology) presented a graphic that does a great job of summarizing what we are talking about. We are talking in Lego blocks, but we need to be telling the ROI complete story.

This book, Essential Elements of Data Storytelling gives some great tips on how to drive change via data, visuals and narrative. From the intro:

Brent Dykes is the king of data storytelling; he’s probably thought about this more than anyone else on the planet. No matter how good your data and analysis are, they won’t have much impact unless they are embedded in a good story. Read this book to find out how to do that.

Transforming data into visual communication is only one part of the picture—it’s just as important to engage your audience with a memorable and persuasive story.

Narratives are more powerful than raw statistics, more enduring than pretty charts. Effective Data Storytelling teaches you how to communicate insights that influence decisions, inspire action, and drive change.

Much of the value of this publication—of this column—is bringing New Narratives that connect the lego blocks. People understand the world and their lives through stories. We depend on the industry to give us those stories, but more and more the focus on how shiny our lego blocks are. We are depicting a new technology, a new lego block, but the blocks will likely be replaced by newer, shinier blocks by the time the project is done.

At AHRExpo Atlanta we will Concisely present the Context of our Industry’s Value.

Help your COP by Connecting and Contexting your message.

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