Communities of practice come together around common interests and expertise- whether they consist of first-line managers or customer service representatives, neurosurgeons or software programmers, city managers or home-improvement amateurs. They create, share, and apply knowledge within and across the boundaries of teams, business units, and even entire companies-providing a concrete path toward creating a true knowledge organization.
In Cultivating Communities of Practice, Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, and William M. Snyder argue that while communities form naturally, organizations need to become more proactive and systematic about developing and integrating them into their strategy. This book provides practical models and methods for stewarding these communities to reach their full potential-without squelching the inner drive that makes them so valuable.
Through in-depth cases from firms such as DaimlerChrysler, McKinsey & Company, Shell, and the World Bank, the authors demonstrate how communities of practice can be leveraged to drive overall company strategy, generate new business opportunities, tie personal development to corporate goals, transfer best practices, and recruit and retain top talent. They define the unique features of these communities and outline principles for nurturing their essential elements. They provide guidelines to support communities of practice through their major stages of development, address the potential downsides of communities, and discuss the specific challenges of distributed communities. And they show how to recognize the value created by communities of practice and how to build a corporate knowledge strategy around them.
Essential reading for any leader in today's knowledge economy, this is the definitive guide to developing communities of practice for the benefit-and long-term success-of organizations and the individuals who work in them.
Etienne Wenger is a renowned expert and consultant on knowledge management and communities of practice in San Juan, California. Richard McDermott is a leading expert of organization and community development in Boulder, Colorado. William M. Snyder is a founding partner of Social Capital Group, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.