Tuesday, June 07, 2005

CoPs and complexity: Conversation and culture (featuring Peter Bond)

Peter Bond who I consider to be one of my mentors, wrote yet another excellent piece "Communities of Practice and Complexity: Conversation and Culture".

CoPs, as Peter writes, have been confused with anything under the sun involving more than two persons getting together for reasons related to work.

"The self-organising quality of CoPs can put them at odds with those who would seek to control them"

Ah, the management! Aren't they the same folks speaking in terms of job descriptions, reports and external rewards? How many of them do practice the management by interaction?

"the very knowledge they create serves as the basis of their continuous reinvention."

How many times some smart*ss in some "smart group" b*tched about "not reinventing the wheel"? Such statement betrays a haughty attitude, a general lack of interest for how another person implements a solution to a common problem (the fact a problem is very common does NOT mean the implemented solution will be as common....) and a naive faith in the wheel, meaning "everything that could have been invented has already been invented, kiddo" (again, "best practices" can not be improved, there is nothing better than what is already there, etc etc).

"For them to be effective vehicles for competence development and knowledge transfer, and conducive to creative solution making, they must maintain a certain degree of autonomy (from host organisations), flexibility, and responsiveness."

OR the manager/leader/facilitator has to proactively foster autonomy, flexibility and responsiveness... ;) Meaning, a CoP needs a flexible and responsive leader that changes managerial style according to the situation, in order to foster self-organization (ie: gives more structure when CoP is chaotic, pushes on more autonomy and flexibility when CoP is too rigid).

"The key to maintaining the creativity and inventiveness of a CoP, bearing in mind it is emotional energy we are speaking of, the CoP needs to be continuously challenged by problems that excite its members, and if this is not quite enough, by appropriate forms of leadership, which will be dependent on the context from which the CoP arose."

It is important to stress out how such excitement is emotional in nature and cannot be elicited through a job description or anything rational like that. Being able to motivate and excite people means being able to be a good coach and mentor, and present managers need to have coaching and mentoring skills as well.

"The key to understanding how a community forms is the role of the independent learner, how her natural motivation is to share her knowledge of the result-of-actions, and how they are produced, which leads to the formation of social relationships."
So the key to form a community is NOT about sharing results or "best practices", but to explain even mistakes, how they happened, why,and the like. Interesting! It does, indeed, explain some things to me, such as, for example, why people spreading "best practices" (or always the same old concepts/links) tend not to be a part of a successful, vibrant community. It's because they cut off the conversation: "follow these best practices and shut the f*ck up".

"The more an individual learns and the more she shares, the greater the variety of situations and events she and her community are able to handle. The more problems she is able to solve, the more strategies the community has for dealing with unanticipated events."
And I reiterate: the more she learns (as opposed to: saying the same old things and practicing always in the same old way), the more the community is able to handle.

"Conversation is a process that can, but not always, give rise to strong emotioning, which may influence a decision to share a result-of-action, individual and collective, with others. Järvilehto also associates the production of results of action with emotions. The depth of emotioning experienced during and after the production of a result, might also influence the value an individual attaches to it. Similarly, the value placed on a particular means or process of production, and the components thereof, will also be influenced by the depth of emotioning produced."

These lines do not need any further comment *grin* The days in which people thought that conversation was a mere information exchange are OVER.

Next question is: when will they get it? ;)

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