Communities of practice

I went to David Gurteen’s Knowledge Cafe last night. It’s a mercifully simple and conversational format much in the style of World Cafe. The theme was the future of communities of practice.

I was struck that in some organisations, enthusiasts for informal networking are still having to deal with pomposity from senior management. The latter are still resorting to the old canard of worrying about “talking shops” being a waste of time. In my experience, for such people the only difference between a wasteful “talking shop” and an “important strategic discussion” is where in the hierarchy it is taking place.

Richard McDermott, who kicked off the event, talked about Fluor, where on the technical side of the business, the commmunity of practice has effectively replaced the standard management hierarchy. (He’s got an article on this in HBR this month.)

Quite a few people, including me, thought social media would mean communities of practice would likely become more porous, informal and outward looking.

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