Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge
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Harvard Business School Press, Boston, 1 edition, (Mar 15, 2002)

From the time our ancestors lived in caves to that day in the late '80s when Chrysler sanctioned unofficial "tech clubs" to promote the flow of information between teams working on different vehicle platforms, bands of like-minded individuals had been gathering in a wide variety of settings to recount their experiences and share their expertise. Few paid much attention until a number of possible benefits to business were identified, but many are watching more closely now that definitive links have been established. In <I>Cultivating Communities of Practice</I>, consultants Etienne C. Wenger, Richard McDermott, and William Snyder take the concept to another level by describing how these groups might be purposely developed as a key driver of organizational performance in the knowledge age. Building on a 1998 book by Wenger that framed the theory for an academic audience, <I>Cultivating Communities of Practice</I> targets practitioners with pragmatic advice based on the accumulating track records of firms such as the World Bank, Shell Oil, and McKinsey & Company. Starting with a detailed explanation of what these groups really are and why they can prove so useful in managing knowledge within an organization, the authors discuss development from initial design through subsequent evolution. They also address the potential "dark side"--arrogance, cliquishness, rigidity, and fragmentation among participants, for example--as well as measurement issues and the challenges inherent in initiating these groups company-wide. <I>--Howard Rothman</I> Today's marketplace is fueled by knowledge. Yet organizing systematically to leverage knowledge remains a challenge. Leading companies have discovered that technology is not enough, and that cultivating communities of practice is the keystone of an effective knowledge strategy.<P> <P>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.<P> <P>In <I>Cultivating Communities of Practice</I>, 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.<P> <P>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.<P> <P>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.<P>
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