Communities of Practice for the Post Recession Environment Tuesday 16th September 2014
35 people attended this Event at the British Dental Association in Wimpole Street. Our speaker was Dion Lindsay of Dion Lindsay Consulting : http://www.linkedin.com/pub/dion-lindsay/3/832/920 . Dion tackled big questions in his presentation. Are the principles established for successful Communities of Practice (CoP’s) in the 1990’s and earlier still sound today ? AND what new principles and good practices are emerging as social media and other channels of communication become part of the operational infrastructure that we all inhabit ? Dion started of with a couple of definitions. He explained the characteristics of CoP’s. In essence it begins with ‘practice’. Practitioners who discuss and post about practical problems. Practitioners who suggest solutions and develop practice. These solutions are at the practical level. Hence, competence at individual and corporate level is increased. It continues with collaboration – the development of competence in an environment short of money ! He instanced the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA) where he had developed an electronic discussion board in the 1990’s. In 1998 this electronic discussion board was taken over by University College London (UCL) and became an electronic discussion forum. It had cumulated 40,0000 posts. An analysis showed that the forum splits 80% moral support and 20% problem solving in terms of posts.
How about Communities of Interest (CoI’s) ? These are all about people who share an identity. They have a shared voice and conduct a shared activity. So ‘identity’ is a critical characteristic Also, there is an ongoing discussion about interests, an ongoing organisation of events and an interest in problems and solutions. This can take place in the workplace or in the public arena. Now to differentiate CoP’s from CoI’s. CoP’s get most attention in the workplace. CoI’s – there most serious work is detached from the workplace. There is a dearth of literature on this.
Success factors for CoP’s : A successful CoP must be a physical community / A successful CoP must not have management setting the Agenda / To be successful CoP’s must have recognisable outcomes / Treat CoP discussions as conversations. Just taking the recognisable outcomes aspect it is necessary to emphasise that ‘the knowledge as it is created must be communicated’. In @ 2005 Shell and MNDA () reported similar findings in creating a Knowledge Base from CoP outcomes : Cost :- 20% (30%). Value :- 85% (90%). Compare to standard Knowledge Base stats : Cost :- 80% (70%). Value :- 15% (10%). These figures speak for themselves. So we can sum up the reasons for a revival in interest for CoP’s as follows : Cost pressure on training and formal means of development in the workplace / collaboration and social media are accustoming organisations to non-structured working / the need to find ways of keeping employees engaged / technology for discussion forums is less of a challenge.
Dion concluded his talk by saying that ‘you really have to want to do it’ to run a successful CoP. There is a benefit in commencing. There must be proper facilitation. There must be adherence to best management practice. A CoP is, in reality, a ‘Community of Commitment’. It fits in very well indeed with project management.
Graham Robertson – a NetIKX ManCom Member – then gave a brief history of NetIKX going back many, many years to when it started up at Aslib. Lissi Corfield – another NetIKX ManCom Member – spoke about our current ideas at NetIKX to take things forward as people are not coming along to meetings as frequently as they used to do. She talked about building resources in Information Management and Knowledge Management on the website and publicising and, indeed, interacting with our group on LinkedIN. Both Graham and Lissi are practitioners in Knowledge Management.
Under Lissi’s supervision we then broke up and started syndicate sessions at the close of which each syndicate reported back to the meeting. The main points are highlighted below.
Syndicate 1 : How to gain management support for CoP’s – the fears and successes.
- Fear may be seen as presenting formal advice.
- Encourage openness with no anonymity.
- Resource of sharing policy together.
- Each table is its own CoP.
Syndicate 2 : How do you become involved in existing CoP’s ? Should you bother ?
- Senior actors are already connected.
- Impose / grow organically.
- Cross organisation / grows out of a need.
- Can we learn from Quality Circles ?
Syndicate 3 : What is a good moderator ?
- Online/in person
- Ground rules
- FAQ’s/steering friendly discussion
Syndicate 4 : Developing IM and KM resources for the NetIKX website
Valuable contributions were made by David Penfold, Martin Newman and Conrad Taylor.
Robert Rosset input suggestions of individuals and organisations from whom NetIKX had learned on the WIKI page of the website. Rather like potter’s clay it needs to be worked into shape. An ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory.
Rob Rosset 22/09/15
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