Communities, CoP’s, and everything in-between…

So this week has been quite interesting. We look at Communities, Communities of practice, how these relate to business and what exactly all of these are. What the differences between online communities and communities of practice are, their characteristics and how they help businesses through understanding of these concepts.

Without further dawdling….let’s press on

 

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What is the difference between ‘online communities’ and ‘communities of practice’?

The basic definition of Communities of Practice (CoP) are, groups of people who share a concern or passion for something they do & learn how to do it better as they interact regularly. An ‘Online Community’ could be describes as a group of people who interact via Internet Web sites, chat rooms, newsgroups, email, discussion boards or forums with similar interests.

So through these definitions, the differences seem clearer, however, to be certain clarification on both these terms are needed.

CoP’s involve 3 main components; Domain, Community and Practice. Firstly, a CoP has an identity defined by a shared domain of interest. Membership implies a commitment to the domain and furthermore shared competence distinguishes members from non members. On top of this, these members value their collective knowledge and competence and learn from each other.

The community aspect is regarding the members involved. It is the pursuit of similar interests in relation to the domain. Members engage in joint activities and discussions where information is shared and explained through various methods. The community also cares for each other as they highly value the information that each member brings to the community. Interaction between members is what drives the community and therefore it cannot be a Community of Practice unless members interact with one another.

Practice makes perfect. The saying rings true in regards to CoP’s. The most valuable asset in any situation is time. Time spent together with sustained interaction is what makes a CoP so effective. The continual sharing base of knowledge and information within the workforce is what makes practice important.

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As for Online communities….

Online communities are groups within the WWW that create communities of similar interests but are not expected to share knowledge with one another. Tumblr., Reddit and DeviantArt and even Instagram are such communities. The knowledge of one member does not necessarily get passed on to other members within the community. This could be for a number of reasons such as conflicting interests, creativity or lack of motivation. Online communities however, have fundamentally changed the way companies listen to their customers. These communities can be run like a utility – when you come to work in the morning, you turn on the heat, the lights, and the voice of the customer. It’s always there for you, whenever you need it. The always on characteristic is what makes online communities special in their own respective way.

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What are the characteristics of CoP’s and their relevance to business strategy?

The characteristics of CoP’s are that of shared knowledge and information. In business the use of the strategy is advised. Businesses use these methods as a way for staff to interact with each other ultimately leading to knowledge being passed around therefore making the entire unit better functioning. This however can only work if all these staff members share the interests and want to pursue the goals set by the domain. Hospitals use this tool heavily as nurses and doctors talk to each other about patients when not working such as lunches or dinners and therefore learn from each other. It seems as though there is no direct way of implementing the system however, and that co=workers have to set out a way to communicate with each other in a way that is effective.

In recent years, the internet has taken over much of the knowledge base. The communication within workforces have decreased and the amount of questions has as well. Therefore the use of CoP’s are limited.

What are the benefits and limitations of online communities and COPs to businesses?

Lets start with limitations.

As said before, questions are being reduced within the workforce as a lot of these ‘answers’ could be Googled. Knowledge is being shared through online channels rather than face to face. The use of online communities could have its limitations as well as today everything people want is instant. Being always on could result in more people wanting to know things at business closing times and therefore sales could take a plummet. CoP’s cannot always share knowledge and sometimes others do not want to learn from each other making it difficult to create a solid CoP to begin with.

On the other hand, CoP’s create a wealth of knowledge to those who seek each other out and have similar interests. Online communities although tricky, if done correctly the rewards could benefit a company immensely.

That’s all this week. Look for the next post as it will be on an actual company and its practices….

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