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An Analysis of Collaborative Group Structure Technological
Facilitation from a Knowledge Management Perspective
Kevin J. O’Sullivan and Syed W. Azeem
School of Management, New York Institute of Technology, USA
kosulliv@nyit.edu
sazeem@nyit.edu
Abstract: A range of collaborative group structures are analysed from the perspective of knowledge management enabling technologies. A framework is developed demonstrating the application and role of specific technologies in supporting collaborative group structures including Communities of Practice, Centres of Practice, Special Interest Groups, Centres of Competence and Communities of Competence. In evaluating the utilisation of such technologies, the nature, purpose and capabilities of such group structures are analysed. Keywords: communities of practice, knowledge management, communities of competence, knowledge management technologies

years, organisations have strived to create more
effective ways to get work done and fully utilise
the maximum potential of their employees. This
paper is focused on establishing a guideline for
the use of collaborative structures in terms of
increased productivity and the optimisation of
innovation.

1. Introduction
It is widely claimed by contemporary organisations
that their most valuable asset are their
employees, or more precisely the human capital
these individuals possess. Human capital (HC) is
defined as the “combined capabilities of
knowledge, skill, innovativeness and the ability of
individuals to meet the task at hand” and
intellectual capital (IC), being the value creation
aspect, consists largely of human capital as well
as intellectual property (O’Sullivan and Stankosky
2004). In the current knowledge based economy,
filled with intense competition, globalisation and
rapid technological change, IC is the future basis
of sustained competitive advantage (Perez and de
Pablos 2003). Ulrich (1998) defines IC, in
mathematical terms, as the product of
competence and commitment. He further asserts
that IC is the firm’s only appreciable asset, and
therefore, must grow if the organisation is to
prosper. However, competent and committed
individuals will not be able to fully contribute
towards the development of IC if they don’t have
the opportunity by means of work autonomy (Burr
and Girardi 2002). On the collective level, just
getting people together will prove insufficient,
unless they are also empowered and offered a
chance
of
self-management
(Mohamed,
Stankosky and Murray 2004). We assert that this
work autonomy dimension of IC can be activated
by nurturing, facilitating and investing into highly
synergetic groups such as CoPs and CoCs within
knowledge intensive organisations.

Organisations have started to manager their
intellectual capital and knowledge as assets of the
organisation. Similarly, as organisations have
embraced the group approach to work processes,
the value of sharing knowledge in an effective
manner has become extremely important.
Extending this model and introducing the
concepts of Knowledge Management (KM) to the
mix and we end up with Communities of Practice,
organic self-organised groups of individuals who
are dispersed geographically or organisationally
but communicate regularly to discuss issues of
mutual interest (Lave and Wenger 1991). The
CoP approach has been well established and has
met with great success when implemented and
managed correctly. However, the CoP approach
is not the only methodology for achieving goals
that transcend business units or organisations. In
fact, if the incorrect group approach is selected,
the desired results may not be achieved, or if they
are achieved at all it may in a less than optimal
way. Other methodologies discussed include
Centres of Practice, Special Interest Groups,
Communities of Competence and Centres of
Competence. Throughout this article we shall
examine the selection criteria for these...
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