Wenger, E. & Snyder, W. (2000). Communities of practice: The organizational frontier. Harvard Business Review 78(1), 139-145.
In today’s business world, the community of practice is an emerging organizational form. Communities of practice are groups of people informally bound by common expertise or passion for an enterprise. Communities of practice are as diverse as their purposes and membership. No matter how these communities function, however, community members inevitably share their experiences and knowledge in creative ways. Although communities of practice may appear like latest managerial catchphrase, much anecdotal evidence exists for their effectiveness. In general, however, these communities of practice have been slow to catch on because the term is phrase is relatively new in business vernacular, only a limited number of companies have made the choice to nurture these communities, and it’s difficult to maintain the organic, spontaneous, and informal nature of communities of practice in an organizational environment. Those companies that have tackled these issues, however, have reaped the benefits derived from communities of practice. Businesses can overcome the paradox of managing these informal groups by identifying potential communities of practice that will benefit the company’s goals; provide the infrastructure that will support the communities and enable them to contribute to the company structure in meaningful ways; and, use innovative ways to determine the value of the company’s communities of practice. As managers begin to understand what communities of practice are and how they work, companies will be able to realize the rich source of knowledge that they provide.