You may not be familiar with the concept “community of practice”, (CoP from now on) so let me start this entry by giving a short overview. Essentially, we will be talking about a group of people with a trade or craft in common, that create a social gathering with the aim of sharing knowledge, best practices, and experience. Although this is a very “startup” thing to do, it has been gaining presence within larger companies that aim to improve in more ways than just on their technological level.
And this is when I show up. I want to convince you to start this movement within your business. Let’s focus on three big questions: why should you start a set of CoPs, who should attend, and where would these meetings take place.
Why: creating communities is more than just plain networking, or socializing. The main benefit is that you are empowering your workers with means and tools to share expertise and transfer knowledge.
Who: this is a tricky issue. Don’t make a community a mandatory activity. Instead, openly announce the creation of such groups, and let the most enthusiast employees to gather together. In order to achieve this, a representative moderator should be chosen as figurehead of the community: someone who has strong knowledge and skills on the issue at hand. The community moderator should be a team player, because every member of the CoP brings a different skill and point of view to the table.
Where: regular in-person meetings are preferred, so a specific and recurring room would work the best. If this cannot be arranged, prepare an online space in a collaborative tool such as Confluence, or use social media to let all members to be in touch and interact.
Although it might not be yet formalized, chances are high that CoP-s are already taking place in your organization, either at a coffee break, or during lunch. Take the chance to enhance such structure and allow your people to improve their productivity.