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 domains knowledge capital
(community of practice) and as appliers and problem solvers using
the knowledge capital (business process).
In tomorrows 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
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