Communities of Practice (COP)
Table of Content
| Page No:
| Communities of Practices
| Communities of practice and knowledge management
| I. Importance of teamwork for Knowledge Management
| II. Sharing ideas to the success of KM
| III. Connection of COP to Knowledge Management
| IV. How characteristics of COP help to bring success to KM practices
Communities of practice are everywhere. We all belong to a number of them–at work, at university, at home, in our hobbies. Some have a name, some don't. We are core members of some and we belong to others more peripherally. We may be a member of a band, or we may just come to rehearsals to hang around with the group. We may lead a group of consultants who specialize in telecommunication strategies, or we may just stay in touch to keep informed about developments in the field. Or we may have just joined a community and are still trying to find our place in it. Whatever forms our participation takes, most of us are familiar with the experience of belonging to a community of practice.
Members of a community are informally bound by what they do together–from engaging in lunchtime discussions to solving difficult problems–and by what they have learned through their mutual engagement in these activities. A community of practice is thus different from a community of interest or a geographical community, neither of which implies a shared practice.
Much of what people do in organizations occurs in the context of Communities of Practice. There is where best practices and innovations first emerge and where the solutions to shared problems are first identified. For this reason, many companies are determined to encourage, promote, and support COPs, especially in areas, processes and functions where an edge in performance provides a competitive advantage (whether it be financial, operational or in the eyes of the customer).
It takes time for COPs to emerge, to flourish and to become productive. More important, they can't be mandated or managed in a heavy-handed way. COPs, then, are an investment in the organization's future, not a quick fix to be applied for the sake of short-term gain. Most important many will exist whether or not management chooses to encourage and support them; they are a natural part of organizational life. And that means they require a minimal investment on the part of the organization.
Communities of practice (COP)
A community of practice (COP) is, according to cognitive anthropologists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, a group of people who share an interest, a craft, and/or a profession. The group can evolve naturally because of the members' common interest in a particular domain or area, or it can be created specifically with the goal of gaining knowledge related to their field. It is through the process of sharing information and experiences with the group that the members learn from each other, and have an opportunity to develop themselves personally and professionally (Lave & Wenger 1991). COPs can exist online, such as within discussion boards and newsgroups, or in real life, such as in a lunchroom at work, in a field setting, on a factory floor, or elsewhere in the environment.
While Lave and Wenger coined the term in the 1990s, this type of learning practice has existed for as long as people have been learning and sharing their experiences through storytelling. This approach views learning as an act of membership in a “community of practice.” The theory seeks to understand both the structure of communities and how learning occurs in them.
Groups whose members regularly engage in sharing and learning, based on common interests—can improve organizational performance. Although many authors assert that...
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