Re: [cp] Gut test, criteria, and observation of "real communities of practice"
I am also interested in seeing how communities work outside the work place.
Mostly, what I think I must do is simply appreciate the ones that already exist
around me. Your very thoughtful post was a pleasure to read and I will respond
on a couple of points you raised.
I would distinguish the downsizing experience from the not paying dues one.
Downsizing is not controlled by the person who is laid off. Layoff can be
sudden, shocking, is a major economic blow, and most often involves a tremendous
loss of self esteem. The way the group makes sense of itself is thrown into
A decision not to pay dues is a decision not to participate in the community.
The community has created a way to handle it. The individual controls it. One
is commonly seen to be tragic and a major life problem, the other a decision
members may regret but not go into shock about (or so I think).
re: destruction of communities -- I almost think that companies should not be
told of the creation of a CoP. They must hear strictly economic results. It is
fine if they wonder how the team or consultants do it. I am sadder but wiser
and no longer care if an executive is open minded or comprehends the concept of
communities of practice. Instead, I care whether the executive under stress
feels that the work, whatever those people are doing, is directly linked to the
bottom line results. That kind of rationale, in the end, is the one that
re: the limits of our ability to assess negotiation of meaning, intrinsic
motivation: Can we interview the members and discern from what they say
something about motivation?
"John D. Smith" wrote:
> Thanks for those thought-provoking comments last week.
> I agree that using both the results of a "gut test" and Etienne's criteria
> is necessary for us to do. And that this 'referrral development community'
> (RDC) is a very borderline case. Not really sure, as I write, whether I'm
> arguing against what you said, building on it or supporting it. :-) I see
> lots of issues, but here are two to follow-up on:
> * Change of context from "inside the corporate walls" to outside. A lot of
> our thinking about CPs is shaped by the context of our work. A lot of work
> happens in corporate settings. We are paid (or seek to be paid) to make
> that work more effective and learningful. But, I'm very interested to see
> what's constant and what changes when we find active and successful
> communities outside a corporate setting. For example, if you stop paying
> dues to the RDC, you can't come to the meetings. In a way, isn't this
> similar to the loss of community from downsizing? I remember Paul Ford
> talking about how communities of practice could be swept away by a merger or
> a downsizing--suddenly seen as worthless because the company's line of
> business just changed--and that's when the community has most value to the
> displaced workers.
> * As community builders we have a bias toward altruism and toward intrinsic
> motivation. I think that's what draws us to this kind of work (as opposed
> to becoming stockbrokers). One thing I learned from the 2nd or 3rd reading
> of "Welcome to claims processing!" (in EW's communities of practice) is that
> these good behaviors kind of develop naturally, given enough stability in a
> community and enough shared need for learning. My assessment of what was
> going on in RDC was that people were "learning to be" in some real sense.
> Learning to be businesspeople. Learning to take the hard knocks of sinking
> and swimming and such. There's an issue as to how far we (as probably more
> educated, leisure-blessed people than the members of RDC) can assess
> negotiation of meaning, intrinsic motivation, etc. We MUST on one level,
> and, on another, I can't say that I have all the tools I need to make such
> I guess one point about offering this case study that's half recognizable
> as a CP and half not is that it raises the question: why should I care?
> What are the consequences of designating RDC as a community of practice?
> Obviously I don't have authority to go in and suggest a few additions to
> their repertoire that would improve the quality of their learning. My
> bottom line question is: by observing how they fare, can I learn what would
> be effective (or not) in other settings?
> Louis, forgive me for not wringing all the good stuff out of your comments!
> (I think that's one thing we do in this group: gems whizz by unchewed, so
> --* John D. Smith | 503.963.8229 | 2025 SE Elliott Ave., Portland OR
> --* http://www.teleport.com/~smithjd ICQ: 72789757
> --* "No great thing is created suddenly" -Epictetus
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Louis de Merode [mailto:ldemerode@...]
> Sent: Friday, May 12, 2000 7:46 AM
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: Re: [cp] Feedback on the referral development community I
> posted a week ago
> Hi, John,
> I enjoyed reading your case, and it does produce a few puzzles. I ran it
> against Etienne's short definitions, and it did meet the test at some level:
> there is a joint enterprise, there is mutual engagement, and there is a
> shared repertoire. But still, it doesn't meet my gut test of a Community of
> Practice! Let me try and explain why.
> * First, the nature of the relationship it is more like a market (of the
> bartering kind) than a community: motivation is close to purely external
> (financial benefits exceed the value of the time spent, tit for tat). I
> would expect a community to have more of an element of intrinsic motivation
> (doing good for the community, wanting others to be successful, etc.)
> * Second, the content of the transactions between members involves
> minimal meaning negotiation (ranking leads) and learning, but is more akin
> to information commodities.
> * I don't have too much problem with the openness of membership, even
> though I recognize the limits it puts on trustbuilding, etc. How much
> turnover would cause a community to turn into an association?
> In the end, I don't really know. I would argue that this is not a CoP, but I
> could accept that it might be just a very weak form of CoP.
> What do others think?