Gina Bianchini is the Founder & CEO of Mighty Networks and an expert on network effects. Gina and Mighty...
The new environment brought about by COVID-19 has spurred change in nearly all aspects of our lives, and the practice of law is transforming rapidly as a result. While many of these changes are moving the legal profession in a positive direction, there are still many areas of marked uncertainty. Dennis and Tom welcome Gina Bianchini to discuss how this unique moment in history is the perfect time to build collaborative online communities to reinvent what it means to successfully practice law in our changed world.
As always, stay tuned for the parting shots, that one tip, website, or observation you can use the second the podcast ends.
Have a technology question for Dennis and Tom? Call their Tech Question Hotline at 720-441-6820 for answers to your most burning tech questions.
Gina Bianchini is the Founder & CEO of Mighty Networks and an expert on network effects.
A Segment: Interview with Gina Bianchini
B Segment: Continued Interview with Gina Bianchini
The Kennedy-Mighell Report
Community Building How Collaboration Can Help Lawyers Carry the Profession Forward
Intro: Web 2.0, Innovation, Trend, Collaboration, Software, Metadata, Software Service, Podcasts, Virtual Law.
Male: Got the world turning as fast as it can? Hear how technology can help. Legally speaking with two of the top legal technology experts, authors, and lawyers, Dennis Kennedy and Tom Mighell. Welcome to the Kennedy-Mighell Report, here on the Legal Talk Network.
Dennis Kennedy: And welcome to Episode 269 of the Kennedy-Mighell Report. I’m Dennis Kennedy, in Ann Arbor.
Tom Mighell: And I’m Tom Mighell, in Dallas. Before we get started, we’d like to thank our sponsors.
Dennis Kennedy: First of all, we’d like to thank Colonial Surety Company Bonds and Insurance for bringing you this podcast. Whatever court bond you need, get a quote and purchase online at colonialsurety.com/podcast.
Tom Mighell: And we’d also like to thank ServeNow, a nationwide network of trusted, pre-screened process servers who work with the most professional process servers who have experience with high volume serves, embrace technology, and understand the litigation process. Visit servenow.com to learn more.
Dennis Kennedy: And we wanted to mention that the second edition of our book, The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies, is available on Amazon. Everyone agrees that collaboration is essential in today’s world but now, more than ever before, knowing the right tools will make all the difference for you. As I’d like to say at the start of all of our podcasts this year, what a difference another week or two makes and the unexpected just keeps rolling on. In our last episode, we discussed our second brain project and our initial thoughts about the tools we are thinking about using in the capture phase of our process. In this episode, we’re excited to be interviewing another very special guest as part of our goal of adding regular interview shows to the podcast. Tom, what’s on our agenda for this episode?
Tom Mighell: Well, Dennis, in this edition of the Kennedy-Mighell Report, we are thrilled to have as our guest Gina Bianchini, CEO and co-founder of Mighty Networks, who describes herself as someone who teaches people how to create thriving communities that they can charge for, and as usual, we’ll finish up with our parting shots, that one tip website or observation that you can start to use the second that this podcast is over but first up, we are so pleased to welcome Gina Bianchini as CEO and co-founder of Mighty Networks. Gina has seen the creation of what I think is over a quarter of a million communities in all sizes and all variety of topics. Given this show’s focus on using technology to enable collaboration, Dennis and I have both been fans of Mighty Networks for some time now and so it was kind of a no-brainer for us to invite Gina to come talk with us about how to create communities and the importance, and maybe how it might apply to the legal market. Gina, welcome to the Kennedy-Mighell Report.
Gina Bianchini: Thank you for having me.
Dennis Kennedy: Hey, Gina. Your story is so fascinating, especially because of its focus on social networking, and I know you stress the term social networking and community building. Would you start us out by focusing a bit on your story as it runs from Ning, which I remember taking a hard look at the time it came out, being in an industry so close to a giant like Facebook and how that brought you eventually to Mighty Networks. Your story I think speaks of persistence, learning, resilience, and timing.
Gina Bianchini: What’s fun to me and what motivates me is that there has never been a more interesting moment to bring people together around a shared interest, a shared passion, a shared goal and certainly, that is what we do at Mighty Networks, are sort of if I think about the evolution of how I think about communities, they are here so that we can master something important or interesting to us, together with other people. Where I started and what you alluded to is that I started working in this whole area of communities, and I have a very specific definition of communities which is how are people coming together to build relationships with each other, which is very different than, “Hey, I want to have an audience or a followership,” where I have x hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of followers which is me talking out at you, you potentially talking back at me, but nobody’s talking to each other. And so, what’s interesting about kind of my point of view or what I think is interesting about my point of view on communities and the network behind and that what fuels communities is that it has always existed in parallel to what Facebook is doing.
Certainly, Facebook groups have been super important for creating groups and creating people coming together. The challenge with Facebook groups though is that the primary model of interacting with them is one post in your News Feed whizzing by you next to whatever the latest outrage is, because if your goal is to keep people on the same feed and in the same platform so that they can see more ads you actually want them to have some emotion around it, and that what we know is that negative emotions tend to keep people engaged longer than positive ones.
And so, if you don’t have a bigger purpose, unfortunately that, what you end up with is where we’re at now with Facebook. So, our model is very different and it’s different at Mighty Networks and it was different at Ning, which is creating a community that is creator-led or brand-led, what you guys are doing here, so in the same way that you introduce a purpose around collaboration for lawyers, and collaboration tool for lawyers. There’s a community where people who are not just learning about something that they’re hearing about on your podcast but actually also the ability then to connect and have not just conversations but potentially do projects, analyze different tools, the pros, the cons, the good, the bad, the ugly. That is my definition of community because it’s all in service to something bigger than yourself. It’s all in service to a larger common goal, and it’s executed away from the noise and clutter of a social media platform, or in the same place that you do your work which is actually a different mental model. I’m talking about Slack specifically. The challenge with Slack is it’s all these people who already know each other, so trying to create a culture and a set of norms around people who don’t know each other, sometimes that works but a lot of times it doesn’t, and what we do at Mighty Networks is create a platform designed for people, assumes people don’t know each other, and that the way that you actually need to kick off and spark collaboration is by giving people a way to meet and build relationships with each other that assumes people don’t know each other.
Tom Mighell: I think related to how you define community, and I will say I had a Ning account and I went back in preparation for this because it still exists, it’s still out there. Right? It’s still there. Unfortunately, it looks like it’s been disabled so I couldn’t get back in. I was trying to remember what it was like but I remember being so excited about using it because it was something unlike anything that was available at the time, and I really liked it but what I think we can all agree on is that when it comes to the internet, everything is constantly changing. Technology is changing. What I’m wondering is has the idea of community changed since you started Ning, or even since you started Mighty Networks, three years ago. Has anything changed and evolved either around the technology that you use or just around what community might mean, over since I even started to experiment with Ning?
Gina Bianchini: Yeah, I think it’s less about the software. You could have a whole conversation about like, “Oh, moving from web to mobile, moving from essentially supporting one web browser,” to being instantly available on every platform in whatever way people want to be able to use it. All of those are pretty profound changes, but I’ll actually tackle the one that I think is the most actionable, which is when social networks were getting started.
So, social network is where people are actually able to direct-message and build relationships with each other, very different than social media where the underlying platform keeps the social graph, as you will, but what people are actually doing is I talk out at you, I’m like posting into the ether, I’m posting into the feed and trying to compete with all the other things that the algorithm is essentially prioritizing and waiting to be more about outrage, and energy, and emotion. So, the biggest thing that has changed is that in the last let’s say decade, is that there are just simply more options for our attention, and so what that means is in the past where you could set up a community, especially a destination community away from the noise and clutter of social media, and you could bring people together and in the past they were like, “Okay, let’s figure this out together,” so you’d get maybe ten percent of folks that would be, “Come in and contribute,” and like, “Figure it out together,” and the novelty of it hadn’t been done before.
So, people were like willing to go like come in and experiment and the novelty sort of had us put aside our typical social anxiety or fears around, “Am I going to look stupid? Am I going to look like a jerk? What am I supposed to do here?” And people just dove in.
Fast forward to today, and if as a brand or a digital small business owner, or as somebody who’s building or creating a community, if you just sort of set something up and you’re like, “You guys just go for it,” it’s crickets, but here’s the thing. All it takes to make it not crickets, all it takes to make it actually not a ghost town of activity, is to help people in very concrete ways see what they’re supposed to do. It’s just as simple as like make sure people know when they show up at your community, “Here’s what we do together. Here’s the way you interact. Here’s what — introduce yourself. Here’s the way to ask a question or you know what? We welcome people dm-ing other members, but you know what? We don’t really do self-promotion” or whatever it might be, and that simple step is actually the thing that gets missed the most and is super important, and is the difference for a lot of people between, “Well, I guess it’s impossible to have a destination community. Nobody wants it. Everybody’s too busy.” Simply not true, but it it’s very difficult to create a destination community that doesn’t have the norms and the culture that we, unfortunately, I would say in many toxic ways have in social media. And so with just — I don’t even think about it as more work. It’s just different work, because you want to interact with your members but if you just set it up a little bit more in a little bit more structured way, that’s the biggest thing that’s changed. You’ve just got to add a little bit more structure and then what you find is that you can create a habit for people to go to something new, especially if it’s instantly available on every platform.
Tom Mighell: So, let’s fast forward to this year, where I was listening to you give another interview and I think you stated that you thought that 2020 would be I think what you called a land-grab for creators to carve out their corner of the world. Of course that was — I think you gave that interview before COVID turned the world totally upside down. Has that had any impact on the creation of communities or what creators are doing with them? How has that impacted kind of your prediction for what 2020 would be about?
Gina Bianchini: I think it’s even more true than when I said it, and here’s the reason. When there is no playbook, when things are changing rapidly, I mean you mentioned kind of the changing week to week and I don’t think we’re going — we’re going to get through COVID-19 and something else is going to happen where as human beings, we entered this new decade I think with quite a bang. I don’t view that we’re living in a world where it’s going to get less busy, and I don’t mean busy in like, “Oh, I’m so busy.” I mean new things that are either self-inflicted or just the world that we’re living in are going to keep changing and keep happening in unexpected ways. Things are going to keep happening in unexpected ways. Well, here’s the thing, a community and for all intents and purposes, a virtual community today and I think that we’ll see it morph and evolve in real life over time, is the single best way to navigate a new environment that no longer has a clear playbook.
Whether that’s for your career, whether that’s for your practice, whether that’s around your health, your wellness, how you parent, how you think about personal finance, how you think about retirement, when all of the books that we read, maybe even six months ago, a lot of those things or a lot of the things that we had, assumptions and expectations like here’s how you run a conference, here’s how you do a training, here’s how we run our infrastructure or our services, here’s how we build a team, here’s how we do recruiting, here’s how we do networking, all of that is being reinvented today and a community is the single best place to reinvent something because you are bringing people together, and as they contribute their stories, and experiences, and ideas, you are mixing and remixing solutions and understanding challenges in a way that I would argue there is no better way to do it anywhere. Social media is not really the best place to do it especially if the only things that are really being popped to the top of all of our feeds is what is outraging us today, the other, the things that divide us. If you want to solve real challenges, you’ve got to come together with people who have a shared purpose and a shared reason for being somewhere and, again, a very clear set of, “And here’s how we do things together,” and when you have that, the sky’s the limit. I think that’s going to ultimately be the answer, as another piece of infrastructure for how we’re going to navigate what I think is an increasingly dynamic world.
And I would also suggest in good ways, as much as ones that feel dark and ominous.
Dennis Kennedy: So, Gina, some of our listeners know that I teach a class at Michigan State’s law school, called Entrepreneurial Lawyering. And so, we had our first class and it’s all going to be all online this semester. It really got me to think about community because — and when you were just talking, I was thinking about some of the things we talked about in the first class are kind of surprising. I talked about some community aspect and how we would need to try things and experiment, how in all the assumptions in law and the legal profession have been blown up I think in the last six months, and then especially for students, I ended up talking a lot about psychological safety which in the competitive law school environment is a difficult thing I found when teaching classes, and I also talked about the notion that we needed to co-create the class as we work together, which fits the theme of entrepreneurial learning really well.
And so, I realized that I’m taking some of the community concepts into the classroom, which is kind of a difficult place to make it work because there are some constraints, and then I look at my background where I worked in-house at MasterCard, where I was part of really a global company and worked with people around the world, and so my sense of community has also changed to global, but what I like about what Mighty Networks is doing and your way of thinking of it is these smaller, really focused social networks, and I really like what you’ve had to say about that so I’m going to let you talk more about it, but Kevin Kelly’s notion of 1000 True Fans, and Li Jin’s more recent 100 fans notion impacted your thinking in your approach?
Gina Bianchini: Yeah. I mean the thousand true fans has been something that showed up before we started Ning, so it was always there and I love Li and think she’s wonderful, and was a reader of that and also offered some perspective on it because I think there really, again, has been no better time to create a community, and we have this myth that a community is only valuable if there’s thousands of members or hundreds of members. When you think about some of probably the most important workshops or experiences that you’ve had, they can be five or ten people and when you have and you can create something deeper and more meaningful that is tied directly to people’s goals and aspirations and the results that they want to generate, you can charge a lot of money because it’s like what else are people going to spend money on if not the things that are most important to them? So, it’s actually interesting. It’s, “So, would you rather have ten people who are paying you a thousand dollars or a hundred people paying you a hundred dollars, or a thousand people paying you ten dollars?” You’d rather have ten people paying you a thousand dollars and creating that value because, first of all, it’s high margin, second of all if you can get ten people to pay you for a program online that’s a thousand dollars, which by the way a lot of people do this, you can get 20 people to pay you a thousand dollars and if you can get 20 people to pay you a thousand dollars, guess what you could probably get? A hundred people to pay you a thousand dollars.
That’s a better investment of your time and your energy, and your entrepreneurship than trying to do something where you’re like, “Oh, well I can only charge ten dollars for this,” so I have to go out and find a zillion people. You’re talking about high-volume low margin, which for these kinds of communities, specifically communities that are mastering something interesting and important together, so much easier for people to get started when you tackle something that’s small and expensive than it is to try to get a thousand people to pay you ten dollars for something that you’ve built. You can always move down, but you can’t move up nearly as fast or effectively.
Tom Mighell: I’m shifting my question now that I had planned to because based on that last answer, this question is more related to the notion of small groups but I want to put a pin in it for later because I have specific questions about kind of an idea for a community that Dennis and I have been batting around for a while now, but I want to come back to the idea of the small groups, which is I get that if you are a creator who wants an audience rather than a community, you want an audience, to me it’s pretty straightforward on how you can get that audience, and just use YouTube as the example.
I set up on YouTube the algorithm, and whatever I choose to use as my social media can help me build that — I won’t call it a network. Network’s not the right word for that, but a group of followers.
Gina Bianchini: An audience.
Tom Mighell: Right, to get that audience, but it seems to me that with Mighty Networks in the smaller communities that growth is going to be more human or creator-driven. Am I right about that? I mean if you start it with a smaller group, how do those networking communities grow? What’s the process of it?
Gina Bianchini: Yeah. Last time I checked if you can get people results and transformation in their life, they tend to do something, they tend to talk about it. Each and every person has a network today and I would actually argue it’s much harder to build an audience than it is to build the kind of community that we’re talking about, especially when you can create something that has a higher price point that’s going to get people better results faster, that they’re going to go out and talk about and you’re going to be able to talk about because you’re going to have testimonials, that basically are going to get people’s attention like, “Wait a second. That looks like something I want to do, and it looks like other people have gotten results that are pretty awesome.” It’s the equivalent of, “Well, this person might be interesting because they have a million followers.”
Imagine the ten people, again on a program that it’s not hard, it’s not about your content, it’s about the results and transformation that you’re able to get for people and the thing is, communities just they’re like having the wind at your back. People know how to — once you create that structure I just talked about, and we talk about it as community design, once you have that, the whole thing starts to be a system that takes off on its own. So, I would argue that building an audience today is much, much harder because all of those social media platforms, it’s pay to play. Even if you have a following, most of those platforms will show your post to one to five percent, one percent to five percent of the people that you’ve worked hard or paid for to have as your following, which means that you have to keep paying them or if you’re on YouTube, you probably have to advertise, and these platforms have gotten extraordinarily sophisticated at ensuring that you’re going to get in just enough to stay engaged and motivated to pay more so that you could have an audience and sadly, an audience is just simply not as valuable.
So, it’s more expensive to do, they’re going to be asking you to put content on your – you say, “Oh, we have to post consistently,” like every day. That’s how you build a following. It’s a lot of time and effort, and you probably aren’t going to be able to make 10,000 dollars for a very long time. Contrast that to, “I have a big purpose. I have an ability to bring people and get people results as fast as possible and I’m going to charge a premium because when I charge a premium, people pay attention to what they pay for and if I can do that for 10 people, then those 10 people might talk about it to 10 other people,” and that’s how Facebook got to a billion people, and this notion that, “Oh, well we’re never going to get there again. It’s unrealistic. Only Facebook gets to have a network and a network effect,” it’s actually not true. It’s not true, and the question just becomes as an entrepreneurial lawyer, somebody who is building a personal brand. Where and how do you want to spend your time and are you creating an asset that is yours? And I would argue that a network is a much more powerful asset to have, especially because you can have it with fewer members. It’s a better asset with fewer people, maybe that’s another way to put it.
Dennis Kennedy: Yeah. I like that notion. I’ve been thinking a lot about audience, and Tom knows because I shared an email today where Tom and I, and others we know, do a lot of content and in the legal profession, you’re asked to contribute for free for the good of the community. And so, I just got another request to speak for free that I wasn’t sure about taking, and so that got me to think about, “Well, there’s audience,” and, “I don’t know if this is building my audience. I don’t think it’s creating community because the organization isn’t doing a good job with creating community,” and I look at in the last six months, some people were doing some interesting things of I think switching from the audience model to the community model, and so I keep marveling at — Melissa Etheridge is the one I look at, who’s kind of figured out this way to say, “I have this fanatical community.” I mean, like, people love her and she’s figured out different things to do with it, and then she’s turned into this — she did a series of in-home concerts and then turned it into a pay thing that like on a Saturday night, if you want to pay 10 bucks, you can see her do a show, and it’s an amazing thing with that community.
So, I think in the legal profession, we struggle with this notion of saying, “How would we get paid? Why would somebody pay us to be part of a community? And I think that’s what you’ve really dove into at Mighty Networks. So, could you talk about that? Because I think that’s going to be a foreign concept for a lot of our listeners.
Gina Bianchini: Yeah. It’s interesting to me that it would be a foreign concept. If we think about why would people pay us, pay for a membership in the community, well membership is a very well-understood chipping-in for access to something that you would not otherwise have access to. There’s a reason why clubs go back hundreds if not thousands of years. Coffee houses have existed for hundreds if not thousands of years, hundreds — maybe thousands at this point, but what they’re typically doing is, “What is in it for me?” Well, if you can associate being a member of a community to the results and transformation that somebody wants to have in their lives, and let’s just take the example of, “How do I become a more entrepreneurial lawyer?” Last time I checked, there are people that are sitting around at really large law firms being like, “You know what? I feel like I’m nailing it. This is an awesome lifestyle,” or clients that are like, “You know what I really want to do today? I want to pay people by the hour,” and so there’s all of this opportunity for innovation and results that’s happening across any hourly-waged job where it’s about how do we rethink what it means to be successful, what it means to be a successful lawyer. It’s meant something in the past. Well, we have an opportunity right now to throw that out the window and if we all agree that creating and being a part of a community where we’re seeking that out together and we’re defining it together, well let’s just say for example, you could make the move from an hourly rate and a law firm that you’re unhappy with to creating something that is — we have a lawyer actually named Kiffanie Stahle, who runs something that is for law and legal, not advice but legal concepts for artists, and people pay for membership in that because if you’re an artist, you want to make sure that your work is protected, your IP is protected.
If you could make the same amount of money as a lawyer but to do it in a way that’s much more impactful and aligned with the life that you want to have, you’d probably pay for a membership, and you’d probably pay a lot of money for a membership. So, I always sort of scratch my head, and then I get asked to do panels and I get asked to do all of these things, and one of the things that I’ve started to really limit to is things that directly — if I’m not getting paid for something, I never think about it. I want it to be something that is supportive of our Mighty hosts, folks that are already on the platform because this notion of like, “I’m doing — sitting on a panel helps me with my visibility,” I’m like, “That’s not important to me. What’s important to me is lifting up, and my intention is lifting up and making connections between people that aren’t easy to make.” I don’t think the audience is really valuable and one of the things I would say for people that are being asked to speak on panels or do interviews that they’re not getting paid for and even virtual things is, where’s the ROI? And in most cases, you can say there isn’t one, and I’ve definitely come to peace with the fact that if I never speak on another panel again, I’m going to be fine. Although, I think I just agreed to one this morning, but it was for a very specific reason.
Tom Mighell: All right. Well, we’ve got a lot more to talk about but before we get into that, let’s take a quick break for a word from our sponsors and then we’ll be right back with Gina.
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Tom Mighell: And now let’s get back to the Kennedy-Mighell Report. I’m Tom Mighell.
Dennis Kennedy: And I’m Dennis Kennedy. And we are joined by our special guest, Gina Bianchini, co-founder of Mighty Networks. Gina, let’s turn and look into the legal profession, which we touched on a little bit, and the potential role of social networking communities and Mighty Networks actually see tons of potential benefits here. You mentioned Kiffanie Stahle, but do you have other examples of law firms or other legal organizations using Mighty Networks or maybe some examples from adjacent professions that might be good examples for the lawyers in our audience?
Gina Bianchini: Yeah, I don’t have — I mean Kiffanie is probably my favorite example, and it’s with a K.
Dennis Kennedy: Okay.
Gina Bianchini: And we’ve seen networks that have sprung up to bring everybody from accountants together, HR professionals together, interior designers and people who are studying for the interior design certification course together. I sort of abstract this up a little bit, which is a career in your profession is a really important thing and where you can tie, “I invest in this membership fee,” or, “I invest in going to this event,” to, “I’m going to be better at my job,” and that’s really where we see a lot of the collaboration and it goes again to — I mean one of the other legal networks started by a woman who had fled corporate law is, how do you start creating project-based and framing your work as a project-based lawyer?
So, again, moving from per hour and what are you billing to how do I charge for solutions and how do I do that in a way that serves everybody much more effectively than what’s been done today? I mean we have a moment where we can really challenge old models as we talked about earlier, and I certainly see laws as a pretty dynamic area in terms of what’s being automated but much more importantly, how and where do we think about more humane ways of communicating and affecting legal perspective, legal protection, and legal advice?
Tom Mighell: So, let’s have a hypothetical on that then. This is something that actually is something Dennis and I’ve been talking about for a while. Last year, one of our episodes, we talked about the idea of creating an online space for the legal technology community, and this is not just lawyers who are experts in legal technology, but lawyers who need to learn more about technology and I mean it’s not your day job. They need to learn more to be better at serving their clients through technology, and my initial idea has been — and I wrote an article about this because I’m really passionate about it but I have no time to do anything about it, is to have a community where everybody could talk about any legal technology topic. There would be some parameters around that obviously.
There has been an effort. There’s — I don’t know if you’re familiar. A lawyer created a group using Slack called LawyerSmack that, okay, it works all right but I don’t think ultimately it’s the right platform for this to happen but after having this conversation, what I’m wondering is to me, that kind of community feels like it’s not just led by one person doing it. It feels like it’s led by multiple people or there are equal voices but after having this conversation, it makes me wonder, is it better for individual creators to create their own communities even though they might be on individual legal technology topics, or should there be one big community to discuss this? Because that’s kind of what I was looking for but that kind of tends toward potentially a larger group that may be more unwieldy.
Gina Bianchini: I don’t think it’s more unwieldy. I think we look at the community design principles that I was talking about earlier in terms of having a big purpose and being very clear on the results and transformation that you want members to have over the course of a year, monthly themes, a weekly calendar that you keep consistently so people can have a habit, both for actually the creator as well as members, and then daily polls and questions which makes it really fast and really easy for people to be able to make connections with each other. That actually scales. For example, we have a fantastic yoga community called Find What Feels Good Kula, and Find What Feels Good Kula has nearly 150,000 members in it and it’s not unwieldy.
When you have these principles, they scale. Where things get unwieldy is when you don’t have those principles and you’re not actually concrete in what is this about, and then anybody can kind of hijack it, and that’s what’s happening on Facebook, is there isn’t really a purpose to Facebook and you see people that whether it’s with intention and systematic government interference, or just people that are comfortable with sort of our worst angels, which is this notion of what divides us and who can kind of take over and run with it.
And that can happen and that’s where it’s like trolling and all sorts of bad stuff, but that doesn’t happen when you have a unique purpose and you’re really clear with people like, “Here’s what we do. Here’s what we don’t. You do the things we don’t, there are plenty of other places on the internet to go and if you’re here to learn about legal technologies, we’re going to tackle a new one every month. We’re going to go deep on X, and we’re going to then go deep on Y, and within that, we’re going to have subgroups for people that are freelancers versus those that are in small firms, versus those that are in bigger firms, but the big purpose of this community is that we are going to bring lawyers together to understand and gain confidence in legal technologies, that will enable each and every one of us to do our jobs in a modern way so that we can ensure that we stay five steps ahead of what’s being automated, feel very confident and comfortable with a super dynamic world and changing both legal, economic, and technology landscape in our careers, take on more and more responsibility so we can actually lead other people taking full advantage of legal technologies, and ultimately instead of running away from something, run towards it with the goal of accomplishing things in our profession that that we never thought were possible before,” that sounds pretty fun.
Dennis Kennedy: That’s great. And Gina, I recognize your big problem approach right there. That’s amazing.
Gina Bianchini: Big purpose, yeah.
Dennis Kennedy: You put that together, your big purpose. That was great. So, I have actually a variation on Tom’s question. So, I’ve started Mighty Networks’ community for what I call my think tank, which I call the Kennedy Idea Propulsion Laboratory, which is directed toward legal innovation and the other things that interest me these days. I can also see that Mighty Networks make sense for our podcast community, my high school class reunion, The Center for Law, Technology & Innovation at Michigan State, which I would probably do separately, another thing that I’m going to start within the next month or so with some other people that we’re already planning to put on Mighty Networks. So, the question is, do I put all these unrelated things, I mean the only relationship to them is that they are my interests, into one community? Is that the structure of Mighty Networks? Or would you do separate ones?
Gina Bianchini: Yeah. I would look at them doing somewhat separate — I bet we could have a whole session on which of those things cluster together and which don’t, but I would say in general, those are different things and those can be different communities. Now, each Mighty Network is treated as its own website and its own that shares the mobile apps that are under Mighty Networks, but you can even upgrade and get your own apps, which is why we have an account per Mighty Network but sometimes, we found that absolutely, you want to have different networks, but there’s a lot of times where you could bring multiple things together, but there’s no hard and fast rule about when to do one versus the other.
Dennis Kennedy: Yeah, because I could see it coming up with law firms where they would say — and I think the law firms who get this I think will be really unusual but when they get it, I think they’re going to really capitalize on it, but you could say, “I could have a community,” that’s the law firm community, and then different practice groups or even different lawyers could have their own communities, and I see that separation there would make sense there but I could also see that you could do some things that especially if you wanted to create like an industry group, an industry community, that you might pull some things together so you focus on the audience I’ll call it or the community interest, rather than your internal firm organization, and that could be the key.
Gina Bianchini: Absolutely.
Tom Mighell: So, let’s wrap it up. I want to wrap it up with a very practical, softball-ish question to you, which is if any of the listeners are interested in creating a community, what are some of the things they need to be thinking about in order to get started?
Gina Bianchini: I mean, what makes them excited. What do they envision?
I mean, you want the fuel of enthusiasm and excitement about what’s possible, and so it really does start with an idea and then our goal with Mighty Networks, certainly it’s to offer fantastic software, but we think it’s as important to bring people together to really demonstrate the power of a community so we have a community for mighty hosts, so no one’s getting left behind, and then also thinking about strategy. So, we offer with the Community Design Masterclass the pieces that are really about not how to use the software, but like how to create a community where the software is enabling it, and so we think about it as software, strategy, and support, and when you bring those three things together, you have such a higher probability of success than if you’re just focused on software or you’re just focused on strategy or you’re just focused on the community itself. And so that’s really, if you start with the big purposes we were talking about earlier, it’s really about just surrounding yourself with the right strategy, the best software for implementing that strategy, and the support when you have questions when you get stuck, when you get busy, that welcomes you with open arms as you’re finding your footing, but also is there as — I always want to give everybody a virtual hug who shows up in their life. I got busy with life and I’m behind in the communities I’m at. It’s like, there’s no such thing.
When you’re creating a community, it’s about following your passion and your enthusiasm, and in many cases your curiosity and then surrounding yourself with the strategy, the support, and the software to really make it a reality.
Tom Mighell: Well, Gina Bianchini, we really want to thank you so much for being a guest on the podcast. Before we go, can you give our listeners an idea of where they can learn more about Mighty Networks and how to get in touch with you if they want to.
Gina Bianchini: Yeah, in a shocking turn of events, you can reach us at mightynetworks.com. And I do pay attention outside of Mighty Networks. We have our own host community at hosts.mn.co, and then also I’m on Twitter at ginab. I’ve been on Twitter long enough where I got the ginab handle.
Dennis Kennedy: Nice. And then, I follow you on Twitter. You post some good stuff, really interesting things, so I recommend that as well. I just want to thank you so much, Gina, for being part of the show. I’m just convinced that now is the best time ever to start communities and so I encourage our listeners to really take a look at that and think about what it is that you want to accomplish at a time when everything is turned upside-down and you can kind of reinvent where you’re going, so very exciting stuff.
Now, it’s time for our parting shots, that one tip website, or observation you can use the second this podcast ends. Gina, we prevailed on you to give our listeners a parting shot. What do you have?
Gina Bianchini: I would say the thing that I constantly remind myself is that it is completely up to me to reframe a situation. If I’m dreading it, if I’m angered by it, if I have a story I’ve told myself about any situation, it is completely within my realm of possibility to reframe it into something else. And I know that might sound kind of fruity, but it’s so powerful. It is so powerful. So, for anybody who’s navigating something that it’s eating at them, what is another way to interpret the story?
Tom Mighell: And very, very true. Yes. My parting shot is more technical this time and that is, I guess the headline would be, “Zoom is coming for your smart device,” but it’s really not just Zoom. We are also overloaded these days with online meetings and Zoom fatigue, and everything that’s going on. What’s interesting is that both Zoom and I think Microsoft Teams to a certain extent are finding ways to put that available on the device next to your computer so that it’s not front and center of your laptop. I’m horrified to learn that Facebook is going to make it available on the portal and that everybody’s going to be able to use Facebook to have their business meetings on. That’s really horrifying to me, but Google Nest, Amazon Echo, there are some Lenovo devices that Microsoft Teams is going to work with, I’m really intrigued by the idea of putting your meetings off to the side and not really having them there while you’re looking at your laptop and getting work done, but we’re still a couple of months away on that but frankly, in this new environment, things are moving very fast in technology so I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing some of these devices sooner than later. Dennis?
Dennis Kennedy: So, I have two things, as usual for me. So, the first is my Kennedy Idea Propulsion Laboratory Mighty Networks site in an upcoming online course that I’m working on.
So, I’ve kind of helped myself out by giving myself a deadline because I know when the show is coming out, so it should be available by the time that you hear this, and it can be found at kennedy-idea-propulsion-laboratory.mn.co, and I also want to mention — many of you have heard that I have a new role as the interim director of Michigan State University’s Center for Law, Technology & Innovation. You can find that at www.law.msu.edu/lawtech, and I’m very excited to be heading up this program, which has been around for 10 years or so and is highly respected, and the opportunity kind of fell in my lap and I’m really excited to be working with students and alumni, and seeing what we can do with technology innovation and kind of changing the whole notion of what law practice and the provision of legal services, access to justice, and all of the things that are going to be as we move forward.
Tom Mighell: And so, that wraps it up for this edition of the Kennedy-Mighell Report. Thanks for joining us on the podcast. You can find show notes for this episode on the Legal Talk Network’s page for the podcast and if you like what you hear, please subscribe to our podcast in iTunes or on the Legal Talk Network site, where you can find archives of all of our previous podcasts, as well as transcripts.
If you’d like to get in touch with us, you can always reach out to us on LinkedIn or Twitter, or leave us a voicemail. Remember, we still like getting your messages for the B segments. So, that number is 720-441-6820. So, until the next podcast. I’m Tom Mighell.
Dennis Kennedy: And I’m Dennis Kennedy, and you’ve been listening to the Kennedy-Mighell Report, a podcast on legal technology with an internet focus. If you like what you heard today, please rate us in Apple Podcasts, and we’ll see you next time for another episode of the Kennedy-Mighell Report on the Legal Talk Network.
Male: Thanks for listening to the Kennedy-Mighell Report. Check out Dennis and Tom’s book, The Lawyer’s Guide to Collaboration Tools and Technologies: Smart Ways to Work Together, from ABA: Books or Amazon, and join us every other week for another edition of the Kennedy-Mighell Report, only on the Legal Talk Network.
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