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What is it?

A group of people pursuing mutual interests or endeavors who deepen their knowledge and skills through regular and ongoing interactions.

Why is it important?

Whether formally sanctioned or self-organizing, Communities of Practice (CoPs) provide an opportunity for individuals to share insights and innovate. Long before Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger(Wenger 2002) introduced CoPs and a series of best practices, these types of groups were an organically forming, ever-evolving phenomenon that supported knowledge management. Today, CoPs are hailed as a key strategy to support an organization’s competitive edge in a knowledge-based global economy.

Why does a business professional need to know this?

Communities of Practice (CoPs) are more than a knowledge management strategy in service of a larger business strategy. They are fluid, living repositories of tacit and explicit domain-specific knowledge. Knowledge can live within, without, or across personal and professional silos. CoPs codify shared knowledge and shape the identities of their members. Understanding what a CoP is and what it is not is critical to designing as well as nurturing this type of resource.

At the core of this term are two words: community and practice.

  • A community does more than bring diverse individuals together based on a set of collective attributes. A community meets the fundamental biological need to feel a sense of belonging.
  • A practice, on the other hand, can be a way of being or doing, a repeated effort to increase proficiency, or a convention that is routinely followed by others. The very nature of practice simultaneously embodies who we are, what we do, and how we do it.

Creating a CoP and assigning it a digital space is only the first step. How knowledge will be shared is equally important. Opportunities for storytelling, coaching, and apprenticeship must also be present.

Knowing about CoPs empowers a business professional to unite participants around a process of continuous improvement while reminding them that they are not alone.


About Rhoda Deon

Photo of Rhoda Deon

Rhoda Deon, PhD, is a healer, musician and educator. On a mission to normalize the struggle of being human, her frameworks weave mindfulness practices and data analysis techniques together with games of chance. She has served diverse, global learners in K-12, post-secondary, corporate, and non-traditional settings. Rhoda is a co-designer of Conscious Conversations, a card game that uses levity to help people talk openly about their organization's culture and business practices.

Term: Communities of Practice