Promoting Participation in Communities of Practice

Promoting Participation in Communities of Practice

Carolyn W. Green (Texas A&M University - Kingsville, USA) and Tracy A. Hurley (Texas A&M University - Kingsville, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-556-6.ch070
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Abstract

One of the emerging themes in recent organization theory and strategic management research has been the central role that knowledge plays in organizational performance. Grant (2001), for example, looks at the advantages of a knowledge-based perspective in organization theory, focusing on knowledge as the critical resource in the production of goods and services. Similarly, Teece (2001) notes an “increasing recognition that the competitive advantage of firms depends on their ability to create, transfer, utilize and protect difficult to imitate knowledge assets” (p. 125). Nonaka, Toyama, and Konno (2001) claim that continuously creating knowledge is the reason for a firm’s existence, noting widespread acceptance of the view that the ability to create and utilize knowledge is the most important source of a firm’s sustainable competitive advantage. More recently, Simsek (2003), taking a knowledge-based view of the firm, has argued that firms with superior knowledge systems are better able to identify, take advantage of, and create information asymmetries in their competitive environments. Simsek’s study found that knowledge-based capabilities were associated with more entrepreneurial activity, which was in turn related to higher levels of firm performance. Interest in how knowledge affects organizational performance has also turned to a consideration of the role communities of practice play in increasing the knowledge-based capabilities of organizations. Brown and Duguid (2001), exploring contradictions associated with the tendency for knowledge to leak across organizational boundaries, focus on practice as the key to understanding the communities that connect professionals in their shared development of knowledge. They note: ...what individuals learn always and inevitably reflects the social context in which they learn it and in which they put it into practice. When learning a job is at issue, this context usually includes the firm as a whole, immediate colleagues, and the relevant discipline or profession (as well as idiosyncratic external social forces bearing on each individual). (p. 200)

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