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 (continued)


Chapter 5

Infrastructures, Processes, Capabilities, and Cultures

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Communities of practice are developing in virtually every organizational setting, often spanning traditional boundaries. Individuals typically participate in many communities of practice at once. For example, a mid-level employee of Sun Microsystems responsible for Java-based products might be an active participant in a variety of intersecting communities:

  • an internal Sun community of practice dealing with Java standards and their relationships to international standards developments;
  • communities of practice formed by IMS, IEEE, and other international bodies dealing with interoperability standards; and
  • communities of practice formed by the Computer Society of the IEEE to build the body of knowledge on interoperability.

Leading-edge enterprises depend on all of these relationships with communities of practice, both internal and external.

Linking Communities of Practice and Processes. Successful Knowledge Age organizations manage to link communities of practice to business processes and project teams. Nonaka and Takeuchi refer to this linkage as “hypertext organization” because project teams “click on” the knowledge in the community of practice on an as-needed basis (1995). R. McDermott characterizes this relationship as a “double-knit” organization (1999), where persons interested in a particular domain participate both as creators/stewards of the domain’s knowledge capital (community of practice) and as appliers and problem solvers using the knowledge capital (business process).


In tomorrow’s organizational structure, as enterprises use their new generations of enterprise applications solutions to reinvent business processes and project team structures, the community of practice may be the most stable organization form in which individuals participate.

Wenger, McDermott and Snyder have generated the following graphic to capture the nature of the “double-knit” relationships between communities of practice and process teams.

Learning and Stewardship of Knowledge in the Double-Knit Structure. The double-knit structure is where directed/structured and autonomic learning meet the needs of the enterprise as was shown on page 57. Different variations on these themes exist in corporate, educational, governmental, and professional society settings.

Double-Knit Structures

double knit graphic


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