A Powerful Leadership Lesson…From a Penguin

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“When you’ve got participation, you’ve got ownership.”

As soon as Dave Krysko had uttered those words, my pen was flying to capture every syllable. I knew I had just heard a leadership “gem”. I also knew that this was a principle that had not only helped launch one of the world’s most ground-breaking social media sites, but also which has massive implications for the local church.

club penguinDave is one of the co-founders of Club Penguin, an incredibly successful online social community for children. In a recent conversation I asked Dave about the moment when Club Penguin “exploded”, bursting from its original 15,000 users to more than 12 million just a few years later.

“One key moment concerned the blue cape,” Dave replied, somewhat cryptically. “We had introduced a red cape; a simple article of penguin clothing that could be acquired for the children’s penguin character. But suddenly we noticed that a few characters were saying that they wanted a blue cape too. More and more penguins picked up the chant, and before long we could hear all these penguins saying, ‘We want a blue cape! We want a blue cape!’”

“So, what did you do?” I asked.

Dave laughed. “We gave them a blue cape.”

Dave went on to explain that what happened next was like an out of control wildfire breaking out. “From there we saw the community grow at a rate we could hardly believe. What sparked it was that moment where the community knew that they had a voice in influencing the community itself. It was just a blue cape. But it came to symbolize the fact that the Club Penguin community were active participants in the development of the community itself.

When you’ve got participation, you’ve got ownership.”

What’s the “blue cape” in your organization?

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Scott Cochrane

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