Monday, 3 September 2012
I am going to reprise this post from 2009, because a) only 5 people read it at the time, and b) it's something we keep seeing, in many organisations.
We ran a KM Assessment in 2008 with the KM lead for an organisation. At one point we were talking with one of their KM team, who proudly announced "we have lots of communities of practice". When we pressed her a little more to find out what she meant by this term, we found that for her, a Community of Practice is a SharePoint site with a list of contributors, a blog, and a wiki. Then when we went online to look at these "communities", the vast majority were entirely empty. Quite silent. No activity at all.
It takes far more than technology to build a Community. The key is in the word Community. Community is a feeling - it is a feeling of having something in common. It is a feeling of trust and of loyalty. Communities of practice deliver value in organisations because they set up structures of dual loyalty. A community member is loyal to their work team, but also loyal to their community, and this loyalty and trust is what enables the communities to be a conduit of knowledge between one work team and another.
Providing a set of community tools and expecting community behaviours to emerge is a variant of the "Build it and they will come" argument. It's like building a village hall in sectarian Northern Ireland, and expecting a multi-sect community to develop. They key is to build the community first, often through hard work and much face-to-face interaction, and let them build the hall. Or the website/blog/wiki/whatever. The community builds their own site.
Provide lots of sites, and you just end up with empty sites. Provide a sense of community, and the site will be built.