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Communities of Practice: Optimizing Internal Knowledge Sharing

Michael Hawley has written an article describing how ‘Communities of Practice’ or CoPs can save intranets from the findabilty problem.

“The key to intranet success is to provide value to employees and give them a reason to visit the site repeatedly. One of the primary ways to achieve this is to connect employees with the people and groups with whom they need to collaborate. Workgroups, or communities of practice, provide the basis for a living, growing, vibrant space in which people can access the information they need, share best practices, and contribute to a shared knowledge base.”

I don’t think CoPs can save intranets. The CoPs may solve the local findability problem but not the global findability problem. What if a staff from another department wants to find something that sits in a siloed CoP? We’ve seen this again and again. A new technology comes along and people get excited with it, start using it and then find out they are doing the same things with the new technology as before.

In my experience, intranets have seen progress when changes are made to the process—the way the work is done.

In his talk yesterday Michael Sampson mentioned that when e-mail and shared access came to the enterprise we learned to work with them and became comfortable with them because the technology worked and because there was nothing better for a long period of time. Now we’re seeing a fast pace of change in the technologies available in the enterprise. These are much better and more efficient but we resist giving up our way of working.

There is always going to be this gap and if we don’t do something to bridge it then CoPs and whatever comes next will just add to the chaos.

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