Starting a new community can be overwhelming. Like a new student on the first day of school, it's easy to tense up and overcompensate.
That's a huge mistake.
Not just for today (hey, it's your first day of school), but for the future you who will face the challenges inherent in poor decision-making.
I have a very simple set of warnings, short stories if you will, that I tell these builders. They will help you stay on track.
And that's all you really need. Why? Because you inherently have the capacity and skill to build a really simple community.
We just have to get the other stuff out of the way first!
I call this one "The Sparrow's Grand Nest"
Once, a sparrow decided to build the grandest nest. She spent days gathering colorful feathers, shiny trinkets, and fragrant flowers, ignoring the basic structure. Proudly, she invited other birds to see. But when they arrived, a gust of wind blew, and the nest, without a strong foundation, collapsed. The sparrow learned that a nest's true worth isn't in its adornments but in its ability to provide shelter and comfort.
Moral: Focus on essentials first; adornments can wait.
The Lesson: Don't obsess about the details when people need clear and simple value signals. Not just for themselves, but also to share with others. Flashy, unnecessary things aren't "flair" at all. They distract and annoy more users.
FPS - Finished Product Syndrome
I call this one "The Painter and the Canvas"
In a bustling town, a painter obsessed over creating a perfect masterpiece. He spent days and nights adding details, never deeming it complete enough to show. Meanwhile, his fellow artists shared their works, imperfect but full of character, and built a community of admirers and friends. When the painter finally revealed his work, he found himself alone, his quest for perfection having cost him valuable connections and experiences.
Moral: Perfection can be isolating; sharing progress builds community and relationships.
The Lesson: It's easy to focus on the competition and try to out do them. But you're giving them the advantage of time and investment. So you stretch to do better when you could instead focus on doing differently. Be more unique then you are best in class; this is a lifelong superpower.
The Complexity Default
I call this one – my favorite by far – "The Weaver and the Golden Thread"
In a small village, a weaver sought to craft the finest garment. She spent her savings on the most expensive golden thread, believing it would create a robe of unparalleled quality. Neighboring weavers chose simpler materials, focusing on the artistry of their craft. When the village festival came, the weaver's golden robe was indeed splendid but too heavy and impractical to wear. Meanwhile, the others' garments, though less extravagant, were praised for their comfort and beauty.
Moral: The value lies in simplicity and practicality, not in complexity or cost.
The Lesson: There are countless ways to build. Community tech has truly unbundled, and everything from payments to emailing to chatbots to content production is a commodity. If you aren't careful, you can easily choose some best-in-class products that are expensive to scale. Or might even lock you in. Fight this by using what you need and only "upgrading" when it's necessary.
But there's more than just "avoiding" problems when you are building.
That's why I created the Lean Launch Community Framework as a Notion doc. Feel free to use, copy, and share it as you build your new community experience.
It include the 7 core elements, from Constraints to Gamification, that will help you make the right decisions early enough in the process to see significant benefits.
Built from years of consulting and community work, I hope you find the Lean Launch Community Framework helpful!