Community benefit of the other members too,

Community is a word that
gives you a feeling of belonging. And a sense of belonging makes you happy. It
is that social term that provides you with security and all those pleasures
that we as social animals long for and seek to achieve every day of our lives. Individuals
join a community, not just for their personal gains but for the benefit of the
other members too, and ultimately of the whole community.

 

This very idea has been
used in management to make organisations more success and competitive by
re-inventing and re-designing their core values and functions. An organisation
works like a machine but it is the community that acts like grease that keeps
it going. New information and Knowledge is necessary for every organisation to
stay updated, meanwhile, using the old knowledge in a better way to maximise
efficiency needed which calls for Knowledge Management. Knowledge is something
that is socially constructed and constantly changed. People come together for a
common goal or objective in an area of shared inquiry and exchange ideas,
tools, techniques, etc. and are ready to work together over time.

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According to Wenger. E
and Snyder, 2000, This community is a social learning system and has been
defined by as “.. A new organizational form emerging that promises to
complement existing structures and radically galvanize knowledge sharing,
learning, and change. It’s called the Community
of Practice.”(, Harvard Business Review, 2000). Communities of Practice can
drive procedures, create new branches of business, resolve issues, facilitate
the expansion of best practices, build up individuals’ aptitudes, and enable
organizations to retain and assemble talent.

 

These Communities of
Practice(CoPs) is all-pervading. It has existed in each and every part of
society since the beginning of time. Humans and even animals, form groups to
share knowledge. Since centuries, cultural values have been nurtured and kept
alive till now and humans have been participating in collective education. Participation
is essential for growth and development of any community as this how exchange
of new knowledge will take place. Considering it is an old concept, its
importance has recently been recognised in the managerial activities. The roots
of this work can be found from the anthropological work. (Jean Lave, 1991).

 

Lave talks about how
learning is an activity that a person cannot achieve alone and socialisation is
necessary. In order to push learning, a community needs to allocate newcomers
to ‘Legitimate Peripheral Participation’ that can be equated to apprenticeship.

Learning or educating cannot happen at a distance as it requires a minimum
degree of control. These newcomers become accomplished and skilful individuals
of that particular community of practice.

 

 

The acquisition of
knowledge and skills is not a simple process. It involves various dynamic
elements. The process is extremely interactive. After gaining certain knowledge
you interact with the whole environment around including the various community
members. This acquired knowledge is then applied to perform tasks as a group
divided among all members rather than being individual. This learning is
continuous process and the individual keeps taking this knowledge forward
mastering it as he uses it more and more. Initially, the tasks performed are
simple, easy which involve low risks but also productive and as time passes
they become fluent and seasoned to such activities that promote the growth of
the community. Successively, the individual gets promoted in the hierarchical
ladder of the organisation, becoming more involved in the functioning of the
community as a whole.

 

These communities are
diverse in nature. The diversity depends upon the type of individuals that have
been recruited and grouped. They differ in shape and magnitude and that’s why
it is essential to modify them according to the results required. Even after
having many differences they hold various foundational, constitutional
components. According to Steven J. Kerno Jr, 2008, these common components are:

 

 

 

Communities of Practice
have many common characteristics. Continuity of mutual relationships which could
be incompatible or pleasant. Members enrol in activities which are always shared
in some way. Information flows rapidly and quick among and through communities (strong
grapevine). Absence of introductory preambles or ceremonial speech (no “come to
order” pronouncement. Issues and complications are generally easy to be framed
as all members brainstorm and work in a synergy, hence, don’t need to put too
much time in these activities. All members have a sense of belonging and
agreement. Communities are aware and recognise their strengths &
weaknesses, working on the weak points to increase their competency. Since,
they are many, they hold the capacity and propensity to make effective and apt
decisions regarding production and general workings. Communities of practice
use common tools, both somatic and cerebral. These can be methods and
procedures, tools and artefacts. Since we are talking about communities, they
also share inside stories, jokes, legends, humour, gossip, etc. Like any other
society, they form their own form of informal language including acronyms,
jargon, and distinct terms. Such informal nature facilitates communications by
creating shortcuts to maximise efficiency. Members of the community interact
regarding external factors and, hence, develop common perceptions and views
which makes them behave in similar ways as well.

 

“Together the terms ‘community’
and ‘practice’ refer to a specific type of social structure with a specific intended
purpose.” (Wenger et al., 2002). There are various other types of structures
that differ from communities of practice in various ways. The differences we
talk, like the form and traits, are essential for a community to perform.

 

Communities form in an
informal interaction, that is, of organic nature. Hence, they cannot be created
but only designed. By that we mean that there are certain elements of the
community that we can decide upon to give it a direction and then later see it
take form and move towards the common goal. An organisation provides the
infrastructure that will support them. These can be thought-leaders and
sabbaticals. Therefore, a community is inherently hard to manage.

 

The community of practice
is not about the organisation or its needs. It is about the participants’
needs.

You foster communities,
not create them. Taking care of healthy communities is like tending a garden.

They thrive on personal energies and relationship of the members. They are not
temporary like teams, they focus more on what matters more to all the members.

The community needs to provide a sense of identity that all the members relate
to and work together like parts of a machine to deliver results and this is
crucial for the learning process. Hence, organisations need to find people of
related identities and/or nurture each individual and train them to fit the
bigger picture like a jigsaw piece specially cut-out for them. This facilitates
and smoothens the flow of information creating a synergy from one member to
another. So, it is needed that the objectives of the organisations align with
that of its community members. “The strength of communities of practice is
self-perpetuating. As they generate knowledge, they reinforce and renew
themselves. That’s why communities of practice give you not only the golden
eggs but also the goose that lays them.” (Wenger and Snyder, 2000).