Discovering Communities of Practice @ IBM

Communities of Practice [CoP] are a hot trend in business today. CoPs are viewed as an excellent way to share and keep key knowledge in the organization -- especially critical tacit knowledge. Above is a social network map of an emergent community of practice at IBM.

When management decides to implement CoPs they usually take an approach similar to drawing the organization chart -- they start slotting people into groups/communities where they "should be." This method is rarely successful because it ignores the many relationships, exchanges, and information flows that have already emerged around any capability, skill, interest, or process in an organization.

At IBM, executive consultant Gerry Falkowski found that it was easy to discover existing communities of interest/practice using organizational network analysis [ONA]. This method allows management to build upon, instead of ignore, the knowledge flows and exchanges that were already in place and growing. Gerry and Valdis Krebs wrote a section of the APQC report: Building and Sustaining Communities of Practice that explains how social network analysis is used to discover communities of practice. The section is available as a PDF.

Where are the emergent communities of practice in your organization... and what are they talking about?

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Copyright © 2008, Valdis Krebs