Picking up on the article Why are we happier in company than alone?, being in groups make us feel better yet also more successful. You are part of different communities. They represent groups of human beings established for various reasons. From large ones such as humanity, over society to small ones such as your neighborhood chess club.

Why are communities essential to our lives?

Evolutionary, we are gregarious animals. We found families and are committed to larger groups as well. In stone age, hunters went out together. They joined forces to circle the target and thus increased the probability to kill the animal. Gatherers too teamed  up. Younger members learned from older ones which fruit & vegetables are eatable and how to prepare them. Experiences and wisdom got refined as well as passed on for generations.

Why are you more successful in a group?

In contrast to many other species, human beings are able to learn from the experiences of others. Ok, this ensured survival. Yet is this also a receipt for success? Yes.

If you can build up on others’ experiences, say you learn from your peers that requesting a decision from your boss via mail doesn’t really work, you try to pitch her verbally. Since she’s apparently a listener rather than a reader, your ask might resonate with her and she might be more likely to take action upon it. Hence, building up on what doesn’t work is a great way to accelerate trial-and-error-loops.

Also, having a social network of experts allows you to tap into the common multiple of knowledge. This increases the chance that you get a better answer quicker than via conventional sources, such as your local library or even Google. You might be smarter than me but not smarter as us. The swarm intelligence is certainly a great lever of groups. I just read an article that especially open networks are a great success predictor. Of course, it is risky to engage with a heterogeneous bunch of people as you might be perceived as an outsider to many. On the flip-side the diversity bears huge opportunities of different ideas, viewpoints and knowledge you can utilize to accomplish your goals.

So, how do you best interact in communities?

Know which communities you belong to. Some memberships are for life, like your race (you cannot brush off your skin color). Others you can exit if they don’t support your aims in life. Therefore you want to check which ones are aligned with your mission. Then you can evaluate what you can contribute to their objectives and how they can help you. Engage with people who you admire and can learn from. Surround yourself with inspiring and empowering people. Yet know that you need to first give before you can ask for favors. Your gifts need to be high-quality. Become interesting to others! Finally, be aware that sheep-behavior can be dysfunctional at times where you want to be innovative. Always say what you think and stick to your guns. You are valuable because you and your opinion are unique.