A revolution in the sharing of knowledge…

Transforming e-Knowledge
TABLE OF CONTENTS     Infrastructures, Processes, Capabilities, and Cultures   © SCUP 2003
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Processes, Communities of Practice, and Culture



Chapter 5

Infrastructures, Processes, Capabilities, and Cultures

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Today’s knowledge ecosystems are not bounded by organizational structures and enterprise borders. Portions of the enterprise knowledge ecosystem may be proprietary. But today's relationships and exchanges of knowledge are using new generations of communities of practice and emerging value webs that are unconfined, uncontrolled, and often uncontrollable.

The complexity of markets and learning systems in the knowledge economy has sparked a trend toward communities that are not confined to the boundary of a single organization. Rather, these communities help weave broader value webs created by relationships and exchanges both within and beyond the boundaries of the firm.

Etienne Wenger, et al., 2002


Taking a Systemic View of
All Aspects of Knowledge Ecologies

Today’s emerging practice of knowledge management takes a systemic view of knowledge ecologies. The next generation of knowledge infrastructures and tools will provide both the capacity and the stimulus to refashion all of the elements of the knowledge and hence social ecosystem.

Knowledge is not a ‘thing’ that can be ‘managed’ like physical assets, but a human and organizational capacity produced by collaborative relationships that can be nurtured and inspired.

George Por, 2001


It has become an article of faith among developers of organizational technology infrastructures that the ultimate value from technology investment lies in its capacity to enable/leverage the reinvention and innovation of business processes. But the term “process reinvention” does not do justice to the entire scope of innovation. In reality, the goal is reinvent the “conversational space” of the enterprise — the dynamics and relationships of the organization that are embedded in business processes, communities of practice, and other elements of the organizational system’s social ecology.

Organizational Structures and
Communities of Practice

Organizations function through intersecting patterns of relationships involving individuals and a differentiated set of organizational structures in which they participate. Most individuals participate in multiple structures and communities, both formally and informally—and many extend beyond the organizational workplace. These structures range from formal department, project teams, and operational teams to informal networks and communities of various kinds. In recent years, practitioners have come to recognize and articulate the importance of communities of practice.

The community of practice organizational structure exists to create, expand, and exchange knowledge and to develop individual capabilities. Individuals choose to belong through self-selection, based on expertise or passion for the topic. Communities of practice are bordered by “fuzzy” boundaries that extend beyond formal organizations and are held together by the passion and commitment of their participants. They evolve and last as long as there is relevance to the topic and value in learning together.


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  In Japanese the “place” is “Ba” (shared space of interaction) — physical, intellectual, and emotional facets.