Conditions and Key Success Factors for the Management of Communities of Practice

Conditions and Key Success Factors for the Management of Communities of Practice

Edurne Loyarte (VICOMTech Visual Communication Interaction Technologies Centre, Spain) and Olga Rivera (University of Deusto, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-965-1.ch202
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Abstract

Communities of practice (CoPs) have been taken into account by both practitioners and academics during the last ten years. From a strategic point of view, CoPs have shown their importance for the management of organizational knowledge by offering repositories of knowledge, improved capacity of making knowledge actionable and operational (Brown & Duguid, 1998) and by facilitating maintenance, reproduction, and extension of knowledge (Brown and Durguid, 2001). CoPs are also reported to achieve value creation and competitive advantages (Davenport and Prusak, 1998), learning at work (Swan et alt., 2002) that promotes organizational competitiveness (Furlong and Johnson, 2003), innovation, even a radical type (Swan et alt., 2002), responsiveness, improved staff skills and reduced duplication (du Plessis, 2008). This impressive list of achievements is not for free; some authors have pointed out the limits of CoP’s (Duguid, 2005; Roberts, 2006; Amin & Roberts, 2008) from diverse points of view, including diversity of working environments, size, spatial or relational proximity, but mainly emphasizing the specificity of CoPs as a social practice paradigm, as it was defined by Wenger (1999, 2000) credited as the “inventor” of the term “CoP” (Lave and Wenger, 1991). This chapter focuses on the consideration of CoPs as an organizational reality than can be managed (Thompson, 2005), the contradictions that the idea of managing them generates, and how these controversial points can be overcome in a sound and honest way. To do so, we review different cases of CoP’s within organizations intended for the managerial team to achieve important organizational goals. Our analysis provides: (a) a reflection regarding the Key Success Factors in the process of integrating communities of practice, (b) insight to the structure of a model of cultivation, intended as a guideline for new experiences in this area, and (c) an informative account of this model’s adaptation to the studied organizations.

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