Communities of Practice 101
Communities of Practice (CoPs) gather people who share a common passion for something they do and who interact regularly to learn how to do it better. They are peer-to-peer collaborative networks driven by the willingness of their members to share work-related knowledge, further develop expertise, and solve problems in a specific domain.
CoPs are groups of like-minded, interacting people defined by what their community is about, how it functions, and what capabilities it produces. The establishment of CoPs requires readiness in their host organization, sound structure, and the delivery of quick steps. Their management can usefully follow the 5D model: discover, dream, design, document, and disseminate.
CoPs identify, create, store, share, and use knowledge; reduce rework and reinvention of the wheel; and permit faster problem solving and response time to needs and inquiries. They illuminate good practice, spawn new ideas for products and services, enable accelerated learning, connect learning to action, and improve organizational performance.
Six key attributes that characterize CoPs are domain, community, structure, mandate, motivation, and practice. To succeed, CoPs should monitor relevance and performance in their domain, membership, norms and rules, structure and processes, flow of energy, results, resources, and values.