23/05/2013 Leave a comment
In their book Cultivating Communities of Practice, Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott and William M. Snyder describe Communities of Practice as “groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis”.
They point out that Communities of Practice are different and have a different purpose to other organisational structures e.g. Operational teams, Project Teams, Formal Departments and Informal Networks.
Knowledge Managers will be aware that groups and networks of people are given many different names/labels e.g. Communities of Interest, Communities of Practice, and Communities of Purpose, and whatever the name/label, that it is important there is a clear and shared organisational understanding of the terms/classification used.
One way to help make the concept of Communities ‘come alive’, or to help re-invigorate an existing Community struggling to build momentum, is to tell an organisational story about collaboration and how the sharing of ideas and good/best practice can result in improved performance; time saved; speed to market etc.
The following video, from Rio Tinto, tells of one such story at the Bengalla Mine. The video highlights how the concept of Communities can lead to a cultural shift and a mind-set where staff think of a Community as the first port of call to help them resolve problems. After all, as a member of staff so clearly puts it, “if it’s happening here, then it must be happening somewhere else”!