Distinguishing Work Groups, Virtual Teams, and Electronic Networks of Practice

Distinguishing Work Groups, Virtual Teams, and Electronic Networks of Practice

Molly McLure Wasko, Robin Teigland
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-955-7.ch093
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Communities of practice are promoted within organizations as sources of competitive advantage and facilitators of organizational learning. A community of practice is an emergent social collective where individuals working on similar problems self-organize to help each other and to share perspectives about their work practice, resulting in learning and innovation within the community (Brown & Duguid, 1991; Wenger, 1998). Recent advances in information and communication technologies have enabled the creation of computer-supported social networks similar to communities of practice, where individuals are able to discuss and debate issues electronically. Given the success of communities of practice for facilitating knowledge exchange, both electronically and in face-to-face settings, management has recently focused on how to formally duplicate these networks and gather their benefits in work groups and virtual teams. However, with the evolution of new technology-enabled organizational forms, theoretical development is needed to distinguish between these different types of organizational forms since there are significant differences in the dynamics of formal vs. informal membership groups and between electronic and face-to-face interactions (Hinds & Kiesler, 2002).

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