Saturday, February 11, 2006

CoPs in Practice

My colleague Bhojarju posted a set of interesting questions on com-prac.

"How practically these CoPs will work ?"

They will work as practically as you make them to. Groups in general cannot be studied in a laboratory fashion, ie by randomizing a group of people, throwing them in, and see how it goes , UNLESS we are willing to obtain results that cannot be generalized, exported, replicated or even ***talked of***.

Two things are very important from a practical perspective:

1. the goals of your CoP:
supposing your CoP is already a CoP that doesn't need nurturing/cultivation, you still need to create a shared expectation of what its "acceptable outcomes" are or should be. All of it can be obtained through an initiative that generates consensus (I use dynamic facilitation) whenever the outcomes are not mandated or requested from the above, otherwise a set of outcomes has to be clearly stated and subsequently enforced (even if the set of outcomes was generated through consensus).

Remember, there is a difference between a CoP and a mess: the latter has no rules and accomplishes the outcome herraticly, the former has as few rules as possible but still accomplishes the outcomes with fair reliability.

Also remember that two different CoPs can have the same domain, even the same people, and still be very different with respect of the kind of goals they can accomplish. The key word here is the facilitator, whether conscious or unconscious, which is the person that enforces the "tone" on the kind of deliverables that are expected.

2. the values of your CoP:
Again, two different CoPs with the same domain, and even the same people, can have different values! Think of a CoP where the facilitator fosters "experts", and experts on their turn punish/reward others for thinking or not thinking like them. Now think of another CoP where the level of ownership is so diffuse that experts are silenced whenever they don't provide a rationale for their "expert opinions" and frankly laughed at when they go into the punish/reward mode. It's all the difference between a "la-la-land" CoP (that will be a CoP but won't accomplish much) and a practical CoP.


"For Example if we have a any platform say Sharepoint, will they add value in collaboration there ?"
A platform can add OR ***subtract*** to collaboration, depending on:
1. the fit between the CoP and that specific platform in terms of needs, functionalities, customization options;
2. the degree of interest in mastering the software possibilities on the facilitator's side
3. the level of ownership participants will feel toward the choice of platform


"DO they add their knowledge to KMS thro virtual or physical meetings?"
Well, I can tell you through meetings for sure. In my language, the word meeting is translated as "to move forward to another person". That is to say, a meeting will work if it is able to generate an ***encounter***.

Now, many people would say it's impossible to do it online because THEY aren't able to. But some people can have "online encounters". Others get fixated that they can't do it online, and therefore they won't, and will need a physical meeting.

Don't you ever overlook the impact that self-generated bias have one the outcome of an interaction!

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