E L S U A ~ A KM Blog by Luis Suarez

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Communities of Practice – the Right Brain of the Organisation? Are You Listening to It Good Enough?

Folks who have been reading elsua for some time now would realise how one of my essential Knowledge Management readings is that of the folks behind Anecdote. In the past I have weblogged about them and their thought provoking posts a couple of times and I always find over there some refreshing views of where KM is heading and how perhaps KM should have been phrased from the very beginning of its own existence.

Take, for instance, the example that Mark Schenk weblog about a couple of months back on Communities of practice – The right brain of the organisation? where you can actually find the following couple of gems:

It doesn’t take much imagination to see most organisations as having a predominantly left-brain focus, with hierarchical structures, emphasis on quantitative assessments and decision making based on numbers such as head count and return on investment, libraries full of strategies, doctrine, policy and procedure and formal lines of reporting and communication (to name but a few relevant characteristics)

And then:

Communities of practice traverse most of the formal structures, processes and reporting hierarchies in organisations. They connect people and expertise irrespective of rank, location, specialisation or division. Perhaps they allow us to access the ‘right-brain capabilities‘ of our organisations.

This is just so spot on ! I wish I would have come across that trend of thought a few years ago back when I first got started getting involved with KM and Communities of Practice. It would have put things into perspective so much that perhaps we would all be looking into it in a completely different way. I am sure that if we would have done so way back we would not have suffered from that almost ever lasting focus on the technology behind KM but more on the people who form those communities. Yes, there we go again, the people. But this time around it looks like things are different. It is just not KM alone but also Communities of Practice which would be benefiting from placing the focus on the people as the right-brain side of things which brings everything into perspective and balance with whatever else we have seen so far.

If not take a look into the role that social software is playing at the moment, not only on the KM area but also on the Communities of Practice area. Most of it just focus on the community activities, on getting people to connect and share what they know with one another regardless of who they may be, where they may be or whatever their level of skills may be. It is just happening as we speak. And all that thanks to the key crucial role that communities of practice are playing in the whole process within organisations. So something tells me that if Mark and his assumption is correct, based on his thoughts, we are about to witness a breaking point where finally a balance between a left (Management) and right (Communities of Practice, and KM) brain will be reached and organisations will be starting that transition from a labour-based company to a more asset/knowledge-based company. So what side of the brain is your company using ?

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