Communities (of practice)
The right Flying Wheel of the L'Earning Lemniscate is all about Communities. Communities are not new; think of Guilds (assocation of craftsmen in a particular trade). Or think of the sports club in your private life.
In the context of the L'Earning Lemniscate we define communities as: "A group of professionals who have something in common with a capability (their practice). This can be a shared passion or a related challenge, problem or concern. The members of the group seek frequent interaction with each other to increase their knowledge by sharing experience and insights (derived from Etienne Wenger)".
Communities are inextricably linked with organisations and their organisational ambition. Sometimes driven by of a societal belief or – otherwise – the expectation that communities can add value by bringing Knowledge (in or out) the organisation. More often organisations are not aware (enough) of the communities and their (potential ) added value. A crisp and clear Community Strategy in which organisations defines their interest and relationsship with communities is often lacking.
Organisations need the knowledge, experience and insights that are present in communities to better find, identify, develop, exploit, and disseminate for better results. This by avoiding unnecessary costs for re-inventing wheels already invented, preserving critical knowledge, a shorter time to market, reduced risk, improved innovation, a better market or otherwise.
A manager was visited by members of a community, offering a value proposition for a capability. The manager didn't know what a Community was and was surprised by this unexpected benefit. Although communities deliver unexpected benefits, you could have raised the question what could have happened if he knew this before.
With the globalisation of businesses, the increasing complexity and the associated need for specialisation and cooperation, inter-organisational partnerships and social media (Twitter, Yammer, etc.) the need of the organisation for understanding and exploiting communities will increase more and more. The systematic cultivation of the organisation's strategic communities and their knowledge is essential for the maintenance and further development of the organisation and its members.
Communities are not a panacea. They are no substitute for left side of the L'Earning Lemniscate such as departments, teams and projects. As such, they do not provide services and products and do not manage any means of production.
Communities come in many guises. Some communities have a recognisable names; others haven't.. Examples of names are: Special Interest Group (SIG), Learning Community, Knowledge, Tech Club. Learning Net, Theme Group, Scientists use names as a Community of Practitioners, Invisible College, Occupational Communities, Cognitive Community, Knowledge Center and Community of Practice (CoP). Recognizing a community with just the name is fictional. Helpfull is to look to following variables: domain, diversity, location, form interaction, initiative and support, structure, formalization, size and longevity. Subsequently, they are explained below:
The domain of the community is expressed in its relation to the associated capability and the outside world. A first possible question is the relation with the capability in the left side of the L'Earning Lemniscate. It may be that the community fill a knowledge domain for which no capability exists (the relation is empty), or that multiple capabilities are related (the relationship is plural). A second question is what developments in the outside world (theory and practice) are connected.
Communities may be homogeneous or heterogeneous: the participants have an equal or different role or function or differs. Note: The members of the community are – by definition – not limited to members of the organisation, a functional area or a process. Day to Day working together is not a precondition for membership. The community develops its own borders. Who are needed for the shared ambition?
Many communities are formed by interaction at a location (colocated community) which is lower threshold to form communities. It is not a precondition. Next to the colocated community we see communities distributed over multiple locations; more and more worldwide.
The frequency of interaction could differ. Example given: biweekly or twice a year. A community can use technical infrastructure for communicating (e,g. Social Media). The other way around is not valid: a shared technical environment (e.g. forum, workspace) is not a community.
Communities varies in their involvement with the formal organisation (left side of the L' Earning Lemniscate). They can be tolerated, accepted, supported met resources up to and including the keeper of the best practice.
The personal ambition:
- is influenced by the underlying driver. Is the driver Saffety, Belonging, Esteem or Self Actualisation?
- covers a need which is related to the above mentioned driver.
- Implies a personal commitment that distinguishes members from other people (intrinsic motivation)
The personal ambitions form the basis of the shared commitment of the community. Based upon this we see four pacemakers which drives the vitality and viability:
- The first pacemaker is the need: is the common need (in all its diversity) adequately fulfilled?
- The second pacemaker is interest: Is the interest (interest) of the member served enough?
- The third is pacemaker is the content: Are the issues that matters in supplied, renewed and refreshed?
- The fourth pacemaker is the inspiration: what and who inspires and animates? Where is the passion (passion and knowledge) into the profession?
Note: content and inspiration can be recieved or brought. Need and Interest are connected to those pacemakers.
Sharing and Caring
Communities gradually develop to their potential. While teams from day one could have a common goal (derived from the organisation ambition) it is common practice for communities to share the personal ambition into a shared ambition (often not explicit mentioned) related to a shared passion, challenge, problem or concern. The extent to which personal ambition matches with other community members (Personal Ambition Match) feeds vitality and viability of the community.
The shared ambition could be expressed. For example:
1. Assistance in solving everyday problems in the execution of the work.
2. Developing and disseminating best practices.
3. Developing and managing rentmeester1 as the methods, techniques and tools that community members need to carry out their work.
4. Developing innovative solutions and ideas.
Communities can have more than one shared ambition. Often visualised in a number of sub- or sistercommunities.
Members engage in joint activities and discussions, help each other, and share information. They develop a shared repertoire of resources and best practices: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems and challenges. By doing so they build relationships that enable them to learn from each other up to the level of mature knowledge relationships which are characterised by care for learning. A shared identity is the result.
- In the core of the community leaders give direction (as a community steward listening to the members).
- The Inner Circle contains pro-active members.
- The outer circle reactive (responding) members.
The level of co-creation grows from sharing (e.g) produced documents to co-created text in (e.g.) wiki's, blogs etc. A mature Community can be the caretaker of best practices in which community members trust and care for each other.
Impact on other parts
The Capability Flying Wheel has an impact upon all other parts of the L'Earning Lemniscate. Examples:
- It delivers an organisation with a strong Capabiltiy Flying Wheel benefits (see How it Works).
- It says goodby to an organisation with a weak Capabiltiy Flying Wheel and Linking Mechanism and an absent Empowerment.
- It influences the Infrastructure Layer (communties choose the supportive infrastructure they need).
Performance of the Community Flying Wheel
Within a community, knowledge, experience and insights are shared. Personal Ambtion and Pacemakers (need, interest, content and inspire) causes interactions in which issues, practical experiences (Lessons Learned), theoretical insights and models, methods, techniques, tools, standards are developed.
By doing so a well-functioning community develops common ideas and generate best practices (what works best), ideas up to investment proposals which can be adopted by the left side of the L'Earning Lemniscate in order to add value.
However for the Community Flying Wheel the performance is measured against the extend to which the personal ambition is fulfilled with the pacemakers (need, interest, content, inspire) , the interaction and the sharing and caring.