Promoting Membership and Participation for Communities of Practice

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Running Head: [Problem Analysis]

Problem Analysis: Promoting Membership and Participation for Communities of Practice

A Paper Presented To
Allen Stout

In partial fulfillment of the requirement of
MGMT 300, Management Practicum

University of La Verne
College of Business and Public Management

S Tinsley

La Verne, California
October 30, 2012

Introduction
A community of practice (CoP) is, according to cognitive anthropologists Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger, a group of people who share a craft and/or a profession. The community may evolve naturally because of the members' common interest 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 through face to face meetings. Communities of practice are not new phenomena. This type of learning practice has existed for as long as people have been learning and sharing their experiences through storytelling. Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger coined the phrase in their 1991 book, Situated Learning (Lave & Wenger, 1991), and Wenger then significantly expanded on the concept in his 1998 book, Communities of Practice (Wenger, Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity, 1998). Time is saved by consulting with members of a CoP. Members of the community have tacit knowledge, which can be difficult to store and retrieve outside. For example, one person can share the best way to handle a situation based on his experiences, which may enable the other person to avoid mistakes and shorten the learning curve. In a CoP, members can openly discuss and brainstorm about a project, which can lead to new capabilities. The type of information that is shared and learned in a CoP is boundless. Management of a community of practice often faces many barriers that inhibit individuals from engaging in knowledge exchange. Some of the reasons for these barriers are egos and personal attacks, large overwhelming COP's, and time constraints (Wasko & Faraj, 2000). Description of the Organization

Greg Goldasich, the general manager of an IT department in Southern California Edison (SCE), saw the value of CoPs for the continuously changing world of technology. He is the founder and primary sponsor for the Architecture, Engineering and Design Center of Competency (AED CoC), a virtual organization, organized into smaller CoPs, made up of technically focused employees and contingent workers from IT and partnered business units. The AED CoC exists to share knowledge and best practices across the architecture, engineering, and design disciplines and apply them to improve solution quality and integration. The organization’s members meet regularly to present new ways of applying tools and technology in the SCE environment and discuss case studies, lessons learned, emerging trends, and the latest industry research. Focused on current or near-term advances in technology, the AED CoC consists of both competency development activities as well as practice-oriented activities (Lindsay, 2010). The value of the AED CoC lies both in the positive impacts made to many highly visible SCE projects and in the professional development benefits realized by members. (Goldasich, 2012) Through smaller, competency-based CoPs, members have the opportunity to collaborate on deliverables aimed at achieving greater technology understanding and standardization. Ultimately, developing and spreading better practices faster (Lindsay, 2010). The AED CoC offered training courses on the methodology and processes of Systems Engineering as well as those focused on industry knowledge. Communities of Practice are a term that refers to the ways in...
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