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  Monday, December 19, 2005

  Communities of practice in Russian business settings

A bit more comments on the statement of my previous post:

Many KM concepts and practices still have not reached Russian business world (and academia as well) apart from a few exceptions most of the KM talk there is still about why it could be useful to invest in something like that, rather then deciding what and how to do. Communities of practice, while there as a reality, is not part of conceptual thinking about management and not a format that organisations would deliberately support with some business gains in mind.

I had to talk on this issue several times while being in Russia, so I thought of sharing it here as well.

communities from a business perspectiveCommunities of practice, as informal groups of people bounded by common problems, exist regardless of what we think or do about them. They support horizontal knowledge flows and idea generation across departmental or organisational borders, but they are not necessary recognised or supported by an organisation.

From another perspective, communities of practices could be a (knowledge) management instrument. In this case it's about an explicit effort of supporting and strengthening communities within a company or across several companies with some kind of business benefit in mind.

I tried to illustrate the difference in the picture. It's a bit straightforward, so necessary caveats:

Most likely the business benefits of communities of practice are not monetary ($), but in any case there is more or less clear understanding of a business value of it behind supporting communities as a management strategy.

By supporting communities I mean providing resources and developing processes and policies. I don't believe communities can be planned and managed; it's rather an act of nurturing a living organism (which still can have a lot of science and workflows in it ;).

It's difficult to predefine an impact of communities in an organisation, but from what I've seen in companies I would say that there is definitely some degree of steering communities by providing more resources to those of them that are better aligned with specific business needs of an organisation.

Coming back to the situation in Russia: many companies are only in the beginning of the process of recognising the business value of communities and developing an infrastructure to support them. Communities of practice are there, but they still have to become an explicit part of management practice.

More on: communities KM RUSMECO 

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