Communities fo Practice as Facilitators of Knowledge Exchange

Communities fo Practice as Facilitators of Knowledge Exchange

Scott Paquette (University of Toronto, Canada)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-556-6.ch015
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For knowledge to create value in an organization, whether tacit or explicit, it must have the ability to be shared among employees. This intentional (or in some instances unintentional) flow of knowledge can become the driver for organizational learning. When examining knowledge sharing, it is important to consider the context in which the knowledge is developed, as the community in which the individual is learning can affect any knowledge that is created. Organizational learning is impacted by individuals, groups, and the organization as a whole, and how these three levels are linked by social processes (Crossan, Lane & White, 1999). However, it is very difficult to create the right social environment to produce optimum knowledge sharing and learning. Sharing knowledge is an ‘unnatural act’, and therefore firms must strive to create the right environment and means to assist employees in overcoming knowledge flow barriers (Ruppel & Harrington, 2001). Previous research has identified communities of practice as a hub for sharing knowledge within an organization (Brown & Duguid, 1991; Ellis, 1998; Hildreth & Kimble, 1999). The ability of a community of practice to create a friendly environment for individuals with similar interests and problems to discuss a common subject matter encourages the transfer and creation of new knowledge. Practitioners with similar work experiences tend to be drawn to communities, and from this a common purpose to share knowledge and experience arises (Wenger, 1998). Blackler (1995) argues that the creation and deployment of knowledge is inseparable from activity, and different contexts manifest in the form of knowledge boundaries. A community of practice can help individuals remove this boundary through the creation of a common context that links different experiential knowledge in an environment suited for knowledge exchange.

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