Thinking together: What makes Communities of Practice work?

Abstract

In this article, we develop the founding elements of the concept of Communities of Practice by elaborating on the learning processes happening at the heart of such communities. In particular, we provide a consistent perspective on the notions of knowledge, knowing and knowledge sharing that is compatible with the essence of this concept – that learning entails an investment of identity and a social formation of a person. We do so by drawing richly from the work of Michael Polanyi and his conception of personal knowledge, and thereby we clarify the scope of Communities of Practice and offer a number of new insights into how to make such social structures perform well in professional settings. The conceptual discussion is substantiated by findings of a qualitative empirical study in the UK National Health Service. As a result, the process of ‘thinking together’ is conceptualized as a key part of meaningful Communities of Practice where people mutually guide each other through their understandings of the same problems in their area of mutual interest, and this way indirectly share tacit knowledge. The collaborative learning process of ‘thinking together’, we argue, is what essentially brings Communities of Practice to life and not the other way round.

Publication DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726716661040
Divisions: College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School
College of Business and Social Sciences > Aston Business School > Marketing & Strategy
Additional Information: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License (http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
Uncontrolled Keywords: communities of practice,knowing,knowledge sharing,personal knowledge
Publication ISSN: 1741-282X
Full Text Link:
Related URLs: http://journals ... 018726716661040 (Publisher URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2017-04-01
Accepted Date: 2016-08-25
Authors: Pyrko, Igor (ORCID Profile 0000-0003-0413-2310)
Dörfler, Viktor
Eden, Colin

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