This post is the fifth in a series of blogs about the things (the topics of interest; the areas of concern; the projects underway; the methods and approaches; the tool-kit) that might be on a Knowledge Manager’s desk.
In the first blog layout 1 I highlighted the learning/knowledge cycle of learning before, whilst and after doing.
I used the second blog layout 2 as a reminder that Data, Information and Knowledge are different and that they need to be managed (and leveraged) in different ways.
In the third blog layout 3 I talked about the classification or types (some might say a continuum) of knowledge, namely Tacit, Implicit and Explicit. It was Michael Polanyi who, in 1966, identified the distinction between Tacit and Explicit knowledge and for those minded to have a bit of fun should try out Karl-Erik Sveiby’s tacit knowledge test. Information about the implications of implicit knowledge for knowledge management in organisations can be found in the position paper written in 2007 by Carl Frappaolo – implicit knowledge – “a new frontier in knowledge management”.
In the fourth blog layout 4 I touched on the importance of the knowledge cycle – an enabling framework which connects three processes (Creation and Acquisition; Capturing and Structuring; and Sharing and Re-use) which underpin KM, and noted that Sharing and Re-use is often the process most open to improvement in organisations.
The focus of layout 5 is the concept of Communities i.e. people gathering together (face to face and/or virtually) to create, share, apply and manage knowledge; sometimes within teams but also across business functions and the boundaries implicit in an organisations organogram. Organisations and Knowledge Managers often use and label Communities in different ways and types of Communities common in knowledge management practice are:
Communities of Practice: Groups of people who share a concern, a passion, a responsibility for a specific area and who aim for improvement, building and embedding good practice through sharing insights, expertise and experience. Members interact regularly; often members have a similar work role and/or area of expertise.
Communities of Purpose: Groups of people who share a common goal and who are being held accountable to achieve a specific objective or set of objectives e.g. task forces, steering groups and project teams – the existence of a goal implies a shorter time horizon than a Community of Practice.
Communities of Interest: Composed of people with a common interest but who are likely to have different roles in the organisation and no specific accountability for action; the motivation is to ensure currency on the topic. These can be formal or informal depending on the demands imposed on members or decided by them. They will be light on structure and have autonomy to run themselves.
Establishing a Community (e.g. deciding on its type: Practice; Purpose; Interest etc.) and then mobilising and sustaining a Community (Communities have a life-cycle) requires facilitation support and proactive management. As noted by Wenger, McDermott and Snyder in their book Cultivating Communities of Practice, “while communities form naturally, organisations need to become more proactive and systematic about developing and integrating them into their strategy”.