Communities of Practice are one of the most popular and effective methods for sharing and building knowledge within and across organisations.  

Matthew Loxton holds a master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Canberra, and donates KM expertise to medical institutions. He wrote one of our most popular blogs in 2011 on the benefits and behaviours associated with successful Communities of Practice.

Here are Matthew's top reasons for why people participate in Communities of Practice:

  1. Occupational security.  Building and sustaining a network that could lead to your next career opportunity.
  2. Passion.  That quest for adding to your store of knowledge in something that you care passionately about.
  3. Community. Being with people who understand your passion because they also care passionately about it.
  4. It's bigger than ME.  Getting a sense of meaning by being part of something that is greater than yourself. 

As Matthew explains, for organisations, they bring other benefits such as:

  1. Succession planning.  Building a pool of talent from which to draw on
  2. Recruitment.  Reaching as they do into networks beyond the organisation
  3. Retention.  Appealing as they do to the intrinsic motivators described above
  4. Engagement.  For similar reasons to those above - and this in turn leads to greater productivity
  5. Intellectual capital.  Making greater use of existing knowledge as well as generating new knowledge
  6. Continuous improvement.  Through the reduction of wasteful practices and enhancement of quality, fast sharing of new ideas, supporting adaptation to change..

We teach how to use Communities of Practice, and demonstrate how to do so using the Goldfish Bowl in our courses on Knowledge Management.  

Goldfish bowl_RiverRhee Publishing 2016.pngKey pointers for how to run Communities of Practice include:

  1. Identify the common area of interest or expertise that is to be the focus of the community
  2. Agree the purpose: why are you wanting to form the community
  3. Define how and where you are going to 'work together': format (face-to-face, electronically or virtually), frequency, use of agendas  and what the content of your discussions will be

How to set up and run Communities of Practice and other techniques for sharing knowledge are also explained in our publication "The Effective Team's Knowledge Management Workbook", RiverRhee Publishing 2015.

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