Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Effectiveness of Communities of Practice: An Empirical Study

Academic journal article Journal of Managerial Issues

The Effectiveness of Communities of Practice: An Empirical Study

Article excerpt

Knowledge Management (KM) is an emerging discipline with increasing popularity among large organizations. Greater importance than ever before is being placed by companies on their ability to share knowledge and the techniques and technologies that facilitate knowledge transfer (Murray and Peyrefitte, 2007). Knowledge Management allows organizations to share, capture, organize, and store internal company knowledge and intellectual capital. It is a way of finding, understanding, and using knowledge to create value (O'Dell, 2004). David C. Blair (2002) defined Knowledge Management as the active management of organizational support and expertise. One critical component of KM initiatives is creating methods to facilitate sharing of information. One of these methods supported in most enterprises with KM initiatives is the Communities of Practice (CP). Etienne Wenger (1991) defined communities of practice as a method to promote organizational learning through information sharing. The key characteristics that identify a group as a community of practice include: (1) a recognized domain of interest that the group members share an interest in and commit to, (2) relationships between group members that allow them to engage in joint activities, share information and help each other, and (3) the development of a shared practice that consists of shared resources, experiences, stories, tools, etc. (Wenger et al., 2002).

Communities of Practice appear to be an evolution of the team concept (Wenger et al., 2002). Although conventional teams have been highly successful over the years, Communities of Practice appear to provide additional benefits by being more responsive in dealing with the opportunities and challenges of today's rapidly changing environment, growing global competition, and the ever advancing information technology. Communities of Practice can provide organizations with a way to capture tacit or implicit knowledge by connecting people with similar interests, allowing them to capture information and make it accessible to the organization at large. Furthermore, as Droege and Hoobler (2003) point out, CPs are structures that can effectively prevent loss of tacit knowledge associated with employee turnover by providing the connections necessary for transfer and retention of knowledge.

Communities of Practice provide their members with a group of peers whom they can contact quickly and easily through technology, pose issues or specific problems, and obtain suggestions, in a relatively short time-frame. Therefore, Communities of Practice can help organizations transform from the traditional multidivisional or M-form organization into more competitive learning, or L-form, organization (James, 2002).

Although in recent years a growing body of literature has been emerging on communities of practice regarding their characteristics, the advantages they offer, the organizational motivation to use them, and ways of designing and putting them into practice, a cursory review of these works reveals that the vast majority of them rely on anecdotal case studies. This is understandable since the concept and related practices are still new and emerging. As such, systematic empirical studies on the subject are scant. This article is an attempt to narrow the above gap in the literature by presenting the results of an empirical study that explores the impact of select community characteristics on perceived overall community effectiveness, as reported by community members, and satisfaction of community members with their community experience. The results of the present study should provide new insight into the characteristics of successful CPs and, ultimately, contribute to the shaping of newer and more effective KM initiatives. Knowledge of predictors of community effectiveness can also assist in maintaining the overall health of active communities and providing a foundation on which community leaders can build to ensure a successful outcome for the organization and a rewarding participation for community members. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.