Wednesday 1 June 2016

13 things we can learn from communities of practice at Ericsson

Communities of practice were introduced in Ericsson in the early 2000s. Here are some lessons from their experience. 

Image from wikimedia commons
I am drawing on two sources here - this article by Christian van ‘t Hof, and a paper published by Anders Hemre entitled "Building and Sustaining Communities of Practice at Ericsson Research Canada", published in Madhan Rao's book "KM tools and techniques".

These two sources provide between them 13 lessons from the Ericsson experience.

  1. Communities are built with “magnets” and “glue” - domain interest and content value attract people to the community, and then the relationships bond the members.
  2. A low-keyed implementation approach leaves more room for adaptation and lowers the risk for “campaign fatigue". 
  3. The role of the community leader is critical in facilitating, supporting, nurturing and guiding the process of networking. 
  4. There are three types of users for a new system - early adopters, early rejecters and neutrals. Energy is better spent using the early adopters as pilot users helping to draw in the neutrals rather than trying to convince the non-believers. 
  5. Recruiting the experts into communities requires special consideration. Top experts don’t always have the best social skills, they already know the topic ,and feel they don't need the community. If experts are reluctant to join, then the community should tap into the “second tier” of knowledgeinstead. 
  6. Keep a balance between bottom-up and top-down communities, to both encourage new ideas and maintain focus on purpose and objectives. 
  7. It is easy to participate in online communities but difficult to develop relationships and feeling of community. Make sure there are face to face events as well.
  8. It is easier to get answers than questions. Once you get a question, 91% of the time it receives an answer. 
  9. It is easier for people to respond to a question if notified by email 
  10. It is beneficial to have a moderator who can follow up on unanswered questions, initiate community dialog, and keep the “pot boiling”. 
  11. Discussions don’t tend to form long threads; they are rarely longer than 10 messages. The system was initally meant to stir lively discussions between experts, but instead added value through answering questions and solving problems.
  12. Content value is critical and it is necessary to regularly purge  incorrect or obsolete information. 
  13. Good community recruiting policies include recruiting people who are active in other discussion forums or  inviting someone to respond to a particular question.


Unknown said...

I can't believe that so many of these KM experiences turn out to be exactly the same as my own in so many ways, the Ericsson experience is similar in many parts although a completely different business. It must be something to do with the common elements in human nature, rather than the business itself defining the development of a unique KM functioning system.

Myles Burke

Nick Milton said...

I thnk they are generic lessons in how Communities of Practice work. I have seen exactly the same lessons in many other organisations.

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