Applying Theory to Inform Capability Development: Bootstrapping the Community of Practice to Boost Productivity

Applying Theory to Inform Capability Development: Bootstrapping the Community of Practice to Boost Productivity

Mambo G. Mupepi (Grand Valley State University, USA), Patience Taruwinga (Walla Walla University, USA) and Sylvia C. Mupepi (Grand Valley State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7390-6.ch005


This chapter describes the deliberate making of a community of practice to advance specialization in divided labor and structuring a successful enterprise. A knowledge network is characterized by mutual engagement in a joint enterprise that gives rise to a shared repertoire of knowledge, skillsets, and practices. The division of labor is identified to enable the novice to develop the proficiencies required for specialty to happen. Bootstrapping and other techniques are applied to replicate the performance required in making effective specialists. A conclusion is drawn taking the position that the centricity of an epistemic community is the locus of control of the job, individual, and team; additionally, it is the only organization that can authenticate the practices necessary to boost productivity.
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Background Information

A History of Competency Development

How can competences draw lessons from a community of practice? The historical origins of competences are varied and have been applied as the basis for building effective military, teachers and professors, and managers, among other professions. Allegedly, Spartans excelled militarily because they recruited their soldiers early in life and spent more time than did other armies on bringing all the recruits to the same level of military competency. The Romans adopted a comparable approach. For both the Romans and the Spartans, the attainment of competences was central to the organization to effective administration and structure of the army (Mupepi, 2010). By contrast, the history of competencies in higher education and in developing corporate organizations is relatively short. Competency-based management (CBM) was used as a strategy during both World Wars. In 1918, the US military found itself in need of more than 50,000 men and women qualified in different trades (Labor Review, 1918). The War Committee decided to train a few individuals who, in turn, trained others using the competency-based education and training methodology (Mupepi, 2010, p. 24). The origins of the CBM construct in higher education can be traced back to early American universities including Harvard, Columbia, or Eastern Michigan University (Westmeyer, 1985). Paradoxically, the construct benefited from both World Wars. Effectively deployed during both wars, it gained considerable credibility and popularity. After World War I, the methodology was used again in a military context to develop the professional competences the USA needed to participate usefully in the war effort (Liaropoulos, 2006). After the great wars, CBM was used in industry and commerce in human resources strategy and it is the theoretical underpinning of CMB in peacetime that forms part of strategy management the focus of this discussion. It can be argued that the theoretical framework that undergirds competency development is a combination of four constructs: social constructivism, appreciative inquiry, action research, and COP. In the latter construct, the collective experience of the members is combined and applied to make a difference in the organization. Polanyi (1966) argues that useful knowledge can be made from the collective experience of the organization. The tacit experience of the membership can be put into the context of the business to advance productivity. Tacit knowledge may be difficult to teach anyone. Mupepi (2014) propounds that the experts can transfer tacit knowing to the novice by means of writing down the job procedures, demonstrating how the job is done, or by the job processes.

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