Communities of Practice Approach for Knowledge Management Systems
2. Research Background
- Which KM cycle can be best related to the most popular CoP model?
- How can the steps in the KM cycle be practically adopted for CoP implementation?
- What is the proposed CoP implementation framework?
- What are the CoP implementation challenges and ICT-based solutions to address them?
2.2. What Is Knowledge Management?
2.3. Explicit and Tacit Knowledge
2.4. The Need to Revisit Community of Practice
- the domain (shared competence),
- the community (engaged members), and
- the practice (shared repertoire).
3. KM Cycle and CoP Implementation Framework
- An organisation should have a business (products/services) and customers—this relates to the ‘domain’ element in the Wenger CoP model. The shared domain of interest and competence will be related to the products and services of the organisation’s business and its customers
- An organisation should have resources (people, capital, and facilities)—this relates to the ‘community’ element in the Wenger CoP model. The members of the community refer to the people of the organisation with the support of capital and facilities for engaging in CoP.
- An organisation should have the ability to act—this relates to the ‘practice’ element in Wenger CoP model. The CoP can develop shared repertoire of their practice based on the practitioners’ capabilities and engaging actions.
- Learning from personal experience—when individuals improve in performing their tasks or innovate through experimentation or derive learning by reason of existing knowledge, and so on.According to the social theory of learning, the process of learning does not happen in isolation, rather it takes place from social participation . Learning is associated with (a) Meaning or Sense making (maps to domain element of Wenger CoP model)—when people discuss their life experiences in relation to the organisation’s business; (b) Practice (maps to practice element of Wenger CoP model)—when individuals talk about the activities and the how they are done; (c) Community (maps to community element of Wenger CoP model)—when someone is recognized to be competent through participation; and (d) Identity—when individuals change and get transformed. Hence, CoPs, where these forms of learning are embedded, can facilitate organisational learning, which is key to building knowledge.
- CoP includes typical defined roles such as (1) Sponsors—champions of the CoP, resource brokers, advisors to the community, recruiters of new members, and so on; (2) Leaders—drivers of the strategic goals of the community; (3) Subject matter experts—the ‘gurus’ who guide in developing the community’s knowledge base; (4) Content editors—people who are trained to review and approve member contributions to the CoP; and (5) Facilitators—individuals who help community members come together and facilitate communication among them. They form the pillars of a structured approach to learning in an organization.
- Intelligence sources—these are developed from experts’ sharing of experiences, storytelling, and so on. Knowledge reconstruction takes place through analysis of the knowledge obtained by this mode. This process consists of listening to experiences and stories shared and selecting the concept for further consideration. By translating the content into a preferred form for the end user or creating a short executive summary, individuals can analyse the data that they have learnt and heard from somebody or from the expert. Such intelligence sources provide information about broad principles, establishing conformance between new and existing knowledge to reconstruct and update new knowledge learnt through this process. In CoP approach, people share and learn from one another face-to-face, or in virtual mode via online technologies, or both. They have common interest in developing a body of knowledge and share problems, experiences, insights, templates, tools, and best practices from the foremost domain experts in building a common store of knowledge . This maps to the practice element of the Wenger CoP model as they develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, and ways of addressing recurring problems.
- Media, books, and peers—this mode refers to knowledge obtained from videos, procedure manuals, sharing ideas by people of the same or different departments, and so on. When knowledge is obtained through this mode, it involves further processing by software tools to codify and structure the knowledge as it could have an unstructured and tacit representation in the mind of the peers sharing the knowledge using CoP . It also involves processes to obtain the knowledge from books and manuals so as to encode and organise the knowledge for storage into a knowledge repository in Step 2. This again maps to the practice element of Wenger CoP model.
- Socialization: Knowledge is passed on through practice, guidance, imitation, and observation and this process of socialization within various CoP approaches facilitates knowledge conversion from tacit to tacit forms.
- Externalization: Conversion of tacit knowledge to explicit forms can be quite difficult though it plays an important process to codify tacit knowledge into manuals, documents, and other digital forms that can be more accessible by more people in the organisation. The use of metaphor is a common technique for performing this process of externalization.
- Combination: Explicit knowledge can be converted to another explicit form using the process of combination where codified knowledge such as manuals or documents could be merged to create new explicit knowledge.
- Internalization: This process of internationalisation is used to incorporate an explicit knowledge learnt into the knowledge repository by modifying the existing tacit knowledge.
4. CoP Implementation Framework
- Internal CoP—These CoPs are formed internal to the organization which could begin to operate informally, but later gets matured to have formal processes in place. An organization may plan for innovative communities where individuals across departments connect with cross-functional views to solve problems creatively using existing knowledge.
- Networked Organisational CoP—Such CoPs are based on a network of organisations that are related through their formal business partnerships or other existing methods of collaboration. These are supporting organisations that collaborate with each other to solve business problems.
- CoP Networks—These CoPs are networks formed across organisations with a formal relationship established to share knowledge. These CoPs could be communities that focus on a particular profession or discipline. For example, discipline-based consortiums where organisations participate as members and share best practices.
- Self-organised CoP—Such CoPs form networks that have no formal operating mechanism but are maintained through ad-hoc relationships among individuals in the network. Individuals who have a common interest form these CoPs. They are knowledge stewarding communities that facilitate in connecting people together.
- Facilitates collaboration and effective networking
- Provides opportunities to contribute
- Cross-fertilizes ideas and increases opportunities for innovation
- Assists people to be up-to-date with knowledge of products and services
- Develops professional skills to solve problems quickly
- Results in efficient organisational decision-making
- Builds organizational memory and diffuses best practices
- Enables organizations to have a competitive advantage
- Groupware and other collaboration tools which are essential enablers of knowledge flow and knowledge-sharing activities among the people who participate in the CoP.
- Data mining and knowledge discovery tools which can be used to “discover” or identify emergent patterns that could not have otherwise been detected. These techniques when adopted in various CoP approaches provide valuable insights into the tacit and explicit knowledge created through the SECI model.
- Knowledge repositories which form the most frequently used tool is the most visible aspect of a KM technology adopted in CoP. Organisation make use of their intranet and a KM database to store their knowledge repositories and share them.
- Informal reporting structure where employees take into voluntary membership of CoPs and this can result in multi-disciplinary members forming groups and project teams. Here, the people’s effectiveness is based on trust development.
- Formal reporting Structure which supports in generating, capturing, storing, and sharing knowledge with accountability assigned to CoP members.
- Empowered department structure which can result in increased capacity for improved action when members of CoP are highly motivated as they adopt an empowered leadership style.
- Enhanced communication within the organisation
- Increased participation of employees in business decisions
- Faster delivery of cost effective projects
- Reduction in the problem-solving time
- Improved productivity.
- Capable of holding large amounts of data in various formats with easy search facilities so that employees can make use of them in their work processes
- Reasonable response times for downloading large data files so that these repositories can be utilized for real-time problem solving in projects
- Secure access to knowledge so that integrity and authenticity of knowledge is maintained even after different people reuse in in several work related processes
- Knowledge Discovery & Detection: Organisational knowledge resides internally and externally. Knowledge detection includes the various processes of identifying the knowledge sources that already exist, as well as discovering hidden knowledge that is within the data and information. These processes should be embedded within the emplyees’ work tasks and activities.
- Knowledge Organization & Assessment: This is the process of mapping, categorizing, indexing, as well as evaluating the knowledge assets of the organisation. The IT department of the organisation should deploy the necessary software tools to facilitate automatic and easy categorization and retrieval of knowledge from the organisation’s knowledge assets in a variety of ways that are appropriate for the job-related processes.
- Knowledge Sharing: In CoPs approaches, knowledge sharing is the most significant KM process directly related to job-related process leading to the creation of knowledge as well as knowledge reuse.
- Knowledge Reuse: In every work activity, three roles can be identified—(i) knowledge producer for knowledge creation, (ii) intermediary for knowledge preparation, and (iii) consumer for knowledge reuse. These can be embedded into business processes through sharing of personal experience, formal education or training, peer-knowledge, and intelligence gained from all work related sources.
- Knowledge Creation: This process depends upon knowledge sharing, collaboration, and access to the relevant information and data. The role of management is to create work related environments suitable to the type of CoP adopted. Establishing work-based access to the relevant data and information from various sources such as structured data warehouses, digital stories, and idea banks is important in order to integrate the knowledge creation process with the business process of the organisation.
- Knowledge Acquisition: Knowledge can be acquired both internally and externally using CoP approaches that include Web conferencing, online discussions, online meetings, expert knowledge bases, and search tools with various stakeholders such as customers, partners, suppliers, competitors, and mergers. When these sharing sessions are directly integrated with the job activities and work tasks, there will be more willingness to share and acquire knowledge, thereby reaping the benefits of CoP.
5. Challenges to CoP Implementation and Recommendations
- Sponsorship—management to sanction time allocation and promote cultural acceptance
- Recognition—to allow identity development and build recognition beyond teams and task groups
- Support—to provide funds, technology infrastructure and guidance.
5.1. Organisational Culture
5.2. Performance Measurement
6. Conclusions and Future Research
Conflicts of Interest
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|Tacit Knowledge||Explicit Knowledge|
|Socialisation (Tacit to Tacit)||Externalisation (Tacit to Explicit)|
|Internalisation (Explicit to Tacit)||Combination (Explicit to Explicit)|
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Venkatraman, S.; Venkatraman, R. Communities of Practice Approach for Knowledge Management Systems. Systems 2018, 6, 36. https://doi.org/10.3390/systems6040036
Venkatraman S, Venkatraman R. Communities of Practice Approach for Knowledge Management Systems. Systems. 2018; 6(4):36. https://doi.org/10.3390/systems6040036Chicago/Turabian Style
Venkatraman, Sitalakshmi, and Ramanathan Venkatraman. 2018. "Communities of Practice Approach for Knowledge Management Systems" Systems 6, no. 4: 36. https://doi.org/10.3390/systems6040036