Guides Book review: People Powered by Jono Bacon

Book review: People Powered by Jono Bacon

Last updatedJune 4, 2024
AuthorKai Forsyth

What if there was a proven approach to dramatically grow customer loyalty, drive innovation, and increase the value of your business? In People Powered: How Communities Can Supercharge Your Business, Brand, and Teams, Jono Bacon provides a compelling roadmap to achieve just that. Bacon, a veteran community builder who has helped companies like GitHub, Huawei, GitLab and others harness the potential of communities, distills over 20 years of experience into an actionable framework.

The untapped potential of people

At its heart, People Powered is about understanding and unleashing the often untapped power of people united by a common purpose. As Bacon puts it, “When you get [community] right, it is like lightning in a bottle.” Through engaging stories and real-world examples, he demonstrates how vibrant communities can be an incredible force multiplier – from the Ubuntu open source operating system that powers millions of computers, to the Star Citizen video game that has crowdfunded over $150 million.

But building a thriving community is easier said than done. That’s where Bacon’s hard-earned wisdom and strategic approach shines through. Over ten comprehensive chapters, he walks through the essential elements of his framework – from defining your mission and selecting the appropriate community model, to tracking maturity and measuring ROI. Along the way, he shares a wealth of practical tips, thought-provoking insights, and vivid anecdotes from his extensive experience.

Bacon strikes an effective tone – authoritative yet relatable, high-level yet hands-on. You get the sense that he’s been in the trenches during pivotal moments in a community’s evolution, navigating both triumphs and challenges. He doesn’t gloss over the difficulties, but his passion and optimism are contagious. As a reader, I felt both inspired and equipped with tangible next steps.

Frameworks for community building

Some of the most valuable takeaways for me were Bacon’s visual models for the community-building process. The “Community Belonging Path” elegantly maps out the journey from initial touchpoint to lasting relationship. The “Engagement Model” aligns a community’s maturity level and objectives with specific tactics and programs. And the “Audience Funnel” helps ensure you’re connecting with the right people at the right time.

While People Powered is packed with frameworks and guidance, it never feels overwhelming or unapproachable. The concepts are unpacked clearly and always tied back to concrete situations. If I had one minor critique, it’s that certain sections can get a bit jargon-heavy and bullet point-dense, where more straightforward language might be clearer. But on the whole, the book embodies the principles it teaches – making complex ideas digestible and actionable.

The fundamental truth about communities

The real power of People Powered lies in the fundamental truth it reveals: in an increasingly digital world, genuine human connection is an immense competitive advantage. Companies that learn how to ignite and nurture community will reap disproportionate benefits. As Bacon states unequivocally, “Empowered people build great things, and the collective power of a thriving community can take you and your business to entirely new places.”

However, there’s a crucial caveat: there are no quick hacks or effortless solutions. Building communities requires significant, sustained effort – it’s a long-term investment, not a short-term tactic. And while Bacon provides an excellent guide, he’s also upfront that it’s not a one-size-fits-all formula. Just as every community is distinct, the path to cultivating them will require tailoring to your unique context.

The rewards of community building

Is the effort worthwhile? If Bacon’s own experiences (and infectious enthusiasm) are any indication, then unequivocally yes. The stories interwoven throughout the book illuminate how the hard work of community building yields immense rewards. With an engaged community in your corner, you gain a legion of devoted advocates, enthusiastic co-creators, and committed stakeholders. That’s an extraordinary advantage.

Whether you’re a novice community builder getting your bearings or a seasoned practitioner aiming to level up, People Powered offers a wealth of knowledge and insight. It’s a thorough, candid, and ultimately inspiring exploration of what’s possible when people unite around a common purpose. And it’s infused with hard-fought lessons from someone who has been in the arena and has the scars to prove it.

So does People Powered deliver on its promise to help you supercharge your business through community? I wholeheartedly believe it does. But it accomplishes something even more profound: it shines a light on our deep-rooted need to be part of something greater than ourselves. If you can harness that fundamental human desire, the potential for your community – and your business – is truly limitless.

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