School of Information Systems

How to Cultivate Communites of Practice in Knowledge Society

Eitinne Wengger, on their book of “Cultivating Communities of Practice”, stated seven principles for cultivating communities of practice.  Why do we still need to cultivate them while they’re already growing in the knowledge society ? ‘Some CoPs grow spontaneously while others may require careful seeding’. To clearly understand, let see all the principles and try to relate the cultivating of CoPs in Knowledge Society.

  1. Design for Evolution

Why is designing?

Why isn’t starting from scratch?

CoPs are natural part of organization life. They will develop on their own and many will flourish, whether or not the organization recognizes them. ‘Internal consultant Melissie Rumizen has led community of practice development at both the National Securities Administration and Buckman Laboratories. “I had to learn,” she says, “that these learning communities are more like volunteer organizations. They simply cannot be managed like a project or team.” A community continually redefines itself and its enterprise in a more emergent, organic way’ (Allee, Journal of The Org Development Network Vol.32, 2000).

In the organization or in the working environment, people tend to join with each other that have the same interesting area in order to build the comfortable environment for them and that’s what we’ve called “knowledge society”.  ‘When Slumberger launched a series of Community of Practice in its research division, most people were already part of networks connected through the company extensive bulletin board basis’ (Wenger, McDermott and Snyder,     2002;pp-53).

Community design is much more like life-long learning than traditional organization design. They started with the simple regular weekly meeting and draw potential member to the community, when they’ve already blended with the particular topics that might be the beginning of the build of the relationship.

  1. Open a Dialogue Between Inside and Outside Perspectives

 ‘A good CoPs is designed by building the collective experience of each community member and brings information from outside the community into the dialogue about what the community could achieve’ (Wenger, McDermott and Snyder,     2002;pp-54).  The knowledge societies in the organization should maintain the synergy of circulation of the sharing knowledge through inside the organization itself or across the other knowledge societies in different organization.

  1. Invite Different Levels of Participation

Wenger, McDermott and Snyder, leveraged the community participation into 3 levels. First, the small core groups that actively participate in the community, secondly, the peripheral that win the large portion of the community and its characteristic is rarely participate. They just watch the core member to do all the community task. The last one is the outsiders who are the people who are not members but who have an interest in the community. ‘ The key to good community participation and healthy degree of movement between levels is to design community activities that allow participants at a levels to fell like full member ‘(Wenger, McDermott and Snyder, 2002;pp-56).

  1. Develop Both Public and Private Community Space

‘Most communities have public events where community members gather; to exchange tips, solve problems and also the private space-the one-one networking of community members’ (Wenger, McDermott and Snyder,     2002;pp-58) . Many organization, company or firm that has many communities or knowledge societies, still has to conduct them together for sharing sessions. ‘Kao, Japan’s largest household-and chemical-product maker, values corporate coherence so highly that any meeting in the company, including top-management meetings, is open to any employee’(Davenport and Prusak, 1998,pp-49).  But, we don’t have to put much focus on the public events, because the heart of community is the web of relationships among community members.

  1. Focus on Value

Communities thrive because they deliver value to the organization, to the teams on which community member serve and to the community members themselves. But the value often changes follow the life of the community. ‘ A group of engineers though that sharing project proposals would be useful. Once they began, however they discovered that the proposals themselves were not that helpful. What they need was the engineer’s logic for matching that software with that hardware and that service plan. This logic, of course was not explicit in the proposal. These engineers needed to meet, discuss their proposals and unveil the logic that held their system together’ (Wenger, McDermott and Snyder,     2002;pp-60) . It shows that the important value for the community is the interactions between each member and it’.

  1. Combine Familiarity and Excitement

‘In terms of support, I think that if I had any bottlenecks or any questions, I could always go to the community. There was a sense of belonging to a family of like-minded people who faced similar issues before. I feel very free to go to people who are part of it’ (Lesser and Storck, IBM System journal of KM Vol.4, 2001).  

‘People will be able to share when they really feel comfortable with the environment. The strongest key to develop this stage is by developing the sense of community.  ‘Sense of community (SoC) has been defined within a group as “a feeling that members have of belonging … that members matter to one another … and a shared faith that members’ needs will be met through their commitment to be together” ‘(McMillan & Chavis 1986 in Sharatt & Usoro, Electronic Journal Of KM Vol.3, 2005).  Highest SoC, will definitely grow the interest people to share and could be impacted to the degree of excitement of the people in Knowledge Society.

  1. Create a Rhythm for the Community

We know life have its own rhythm, from the sun rises until it sets in the west.  It should happen in the Community. ‘When the beat is strong and rhythmic, the society has a sense of movement and liveliness and when the beat is too fast, the society feels breathless; people stop participating because they’re overwhelmed, otherwise if the beet is too slow, the community feels sluggish’ (Wenger, McDermott and Snyder, 2002;pp-62).  The Rhythms are such as regular meeting, teleconferences, web site activity and the other thing that go along with the heartbeat of the community. Maintaining the rhythm in the knowledge society is the strongest indicator of its liveliness.


Allee, Verna.2000. “Knowledge Networks and Communities of Practice”, Journal of the Organization Development Network, Vol. 32(4) .

Ardichvili, A. , Page, Vaughn and Wentling, Tim. (2003). Motivation and barriers to participation in virtual knowledge-sharing communities of practice, Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 7(1), 64-77.