School of Information Systems

What Role Does Communities of Practice (CoPs) Play In Knowledge Society


In the study of Knowledge Management, we’ve learnt about the type of knowledge, both explicit and Tacit. The explicit knowledge contain the harder aspects of knowledge that are structured, codified, and can be captured and stored in knowledge repositories, while the softer aspect of knowledge are those aspect that are less structured and are difficult or impossible to articulate, store in the head of the people and gained from the people’s experience, we’ve known them as Tacit Knowledge.  ‘Communities of Practices have been shown to be groups where the softer aspects of knowledge can be created, nurtured and sustained’ (Kimble et al.,2000 in Kimble and Hildret, Journal of KM Vol.9,2005). It is a form that will pool people together and do share, where ‘ Sharing is a process whereby a resource is given by one party and received by another’ (Sharratt and Usoro, Electronic Journal of KM Vo.3, 2005).   In this paper, we will see the role does CoPs play in knowledge society, based on the context of how to cultivate the CoPs in a Knowledge Society.


The Beginning

The term “Communities of Practice” or “CoPs”,  was first introduced by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in 1991,  who used it in relation to situated learning as part of an attempt to “rethink learning” at the Institute for Research on Learning. They saw the acquisition of knowledge as a social process where people can participate in communal learning at different levels depending on their level of authority or seniority in the group, (whether they are a newcomer to the group or have been a member for a long time).Then, In 1998, the theorist Etienne Wenger extended the concept and applied it to other contexts, including organizational settings.

The Definition

‘Communities of Practice or CoPs are groups of people who share a concern, a set of problems, or a passion about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interacting on an ongoing basis’ (Wenger, McDermott and Snyder,     2002;pp-4).  In the working environment, Davenport and Prusak, defined CoP as ‘a self-organized groups that generally initiated by employees who communicate with one another because they share common work practices, interests or aims’ (Davenport & Prusak, 1998;pp-38).

By implementing CoPs through sharing the common interest of each employee, would definitely bring many advantages for them and surely affect the company itself. That’s why, Davenport and Prusak mentioned about how’s important for the managers should not underestimate the value of talk. They would create the circulation of Knowledge and information while they were talking and some of the information or knowledge that really important may give an outcome for the whole organization indirectly.


CoP does play an important role in Knowledge Society. ‘Individuals and community organizations need network and normative system for capturing, processing and understanding data, information and knowledge that can then be used for creating application, implementation and evaluation system for their community related experiences’ (Moore & Brooks,1996 in Moore & Brooks International Journal of Adult and Vocational Learning). People in Knowledge Society need a “media” or a “form” to strengthen their relation between each other so knowledge will be easily transferred from head to head.    ‘When employees view knowledge as a public good belonging to the whole organization, knowledge flows easily’ (Ardichvili, Page and Wentling, Journal Of Knowledge Management Vol.7,2003). We may continue to the part below to get some way for cultivating the CoPs in Knowledge Society based on a study from Eitinne Wengger, Richard Mc Dermott and William M.Snyder.


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.

Davenport, Thomas H. and Prusak, Laurance. (1998). “Working Knowledge”, Boston, Massachusett : Harvard Business School Press.

Kimble, Chris and Hildreth, Paul.(2005). Dualities, distributed communities of practice and Knowledge Management. Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 9 (4), 102-113.

Lesser, E.L. and Storck, J. (2001). Communities of Practice and Organizational Perfomance, IBM System Journal, Vol. 4(2).

Moore, Allen B. and Brooks, Rusty. Learning Communities and Community Development : Describing The Process, International Journal of Adult and Vocational Learning.

Sharratt, Mark, and Usoro, Abel.(2005). Understanding  Knowledge-Sharing in Online Communities of Practice. Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol.1, Issue 2.

Wenger, Etienne, McDermott, Richard and Snyder, William M.(2002). “Cultivating Communities of Practice”, Boston, Massachusett : Harvard Business School Press.