(Migrated weblog post from LSR)
I am not sure how many folks here in my weblog would be familiar with Shawn Callahan. I had the chance to meet him up at one of the IBM Knowledge Management Conferences way back in 2003 and apart from learning from him a huge deal about Knowledge Management and Communities of Practice he surely is a good fun bloke.
Although he left IBM some time ago and became the managing director of Anecdote Pty Ltd I still keep on reading from his weblog on a very regular basis. He always has got something interesting to say. And if not check out Anecdote: complexity – narrative – knowledge and you will be able to see what he has been up to lately.
However, the reason why I am posting this weblog post though is to actually reference one of the many great papers he has written in the past around KM. This one in particular (Want to Manage Tacit Knowledge?) talks about one of the most complicated areas within Knowledge Management, which is the aspect of managing the unmanageable: Tacit Knowledge (vs. Explicit Knowledge, the latter being what most companies have been doing for quite some time one way or another with a number of different Intellectual Capital repositories. I do not know of any company that I am aware of that does not have, at least, an strategy to try to capture that kind of knowledge)
So, going back to the paper. It is one of the best reads I can think of on the subject and it basically comes to conclude that Communities of Practice do offer the perfect environment to manage that tacit knowledge based on the nature of the different collaborative efforts that already exist as part of the organisation, that is, the communities themselves, by providing as well the necessary support to nurture that new entity, that Community of Practice.
He also talks about how community mapping would be an important first step to get some visibility for these CoPs and this is certainly why it is very relevant that whenever you get yourself involved with creating a CoPs program that you allow as well for the creation of a a listing or index where all the CoPs would be shown so that it could be used as reference and single point of entry for individuals who may want to look for a CoP to join or for already existing members of a specific CoP that may want to find other communities with similar interests.
At the same time he mentions how crucial for the well being of each community is to have a solid business case and how business value needs to be communicated to sponsors as often as it may be possible in order to keep the leadership and support going. I don’t think that there is much more to say than this. Without a committed sponsorship and leadership from the powers that be it is going to be difficult for a CoP to be self-sustained and self-sufficient. So the sooner that gets arranged the better it would be for the CoP and its members.
Overall, a really good read for anybody who would want to find out more about tacit knowledge and how to manage it through communities of practice.