The Life Cycles of Communities of Practice

The Life Cycles of Communities of Practice

Deepa Ray (Oklahoma State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-556-6.ch055
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Today more and more companies are realizing the value of knowledge, and the benefits of capturing and leveraging it among all employees. Knowledge in the form of data, symbols, facts, and figures has been captured, but knowledge that is tacit (implicit) still continues to pose a challenge. How does such knowledge exist and where exactly does it thrive? The answer to that is “people”—the soft aspect of a company’s asset. Thus intellectual capital (IC), which represents the human intelligence asset of a company, is where both tacit and explicit knowledge reside. With technology advancing to connect different people across the world, support groups, developer forums, and message lists are probably the most immediate resources that professionals look to for knowledge or solutions to issues at work. This could very well be the first step a person takes to be a part of a community of practice (CoP). Interactions, discussions, exchange of ideas, and solving each other’s problems is in itself a source of knowledge, and although no attempt is made to hold onto such knowledge or guard it as a secret, the wealth of information remains privy to the community that shares it. Thus we can see that the continuum of informal discussions to a structured process of knowledge sharing can be represented by different stages in a lifecycle of a CoP. This article is an attempt to look at the lifecycle of a CoP, not just in terms of knowledge creation at each of its stages, but also as an example of how social networks are born and how they thrive. Understanding the lifecycle of CoPs will give greater insight into the knowledge sharing process resulting in more companies recognizing the importance of CoPs.

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