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RE: [cp] Are CoPs Systems? (Was It Depends and was Prerequisite values)

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  • John D. Smith
    Jim Palmer { _jpalmertx@aol.com_ (mailto:jpalmertx@aol.com) } asks: What do we lose, or gain, in thinking of CoPs in systems terms? Is a systems approach
    Message 1 of 37 , Mar 12, 2005
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      Jim Palmer { _jpalmertx@..._ (mailto:jpalmertx@...) } asks:

      What do we lose, or gain, in thinking of CoPs in systems terms?
      Is a systems approach actually useful to understand people, with free
      choice, interacting as CoPs?

      I think that it's often a lot of work to NOT think of communities of
      practice in systems terms. It's like a "closed system" kind of thinking is
      a kind of short-hand, knee-jerk approach.

      In the context that Miguel Cornejo was describing, where someone is
      designing resources FOR a community, it seems to me that it takes a lot more
      work to think of it as an open system. For example, I've done a lot of work
      to delegate Web Crossing priviledges DOWN to participants in workshops and
      communities. Giving people more choice and more opportunities to interact
      is a vastly comlicating, but always useful thing to do.

      John
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    • plbond
      Thought there might be an interest in a definition of a CoP derived using CATWOE, a systemic thinking tool. CATWOE is a mnemonic used to define a system in
      Message 37 of 37 , Apr 12, 2005
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        Thought there might be an interest in a definition of a CoP derived using
        CATWOE, a systemic thinking tool.

        CATWOE is a mnemonic used to define a system in Soft Systems Methodology.
        I've used it here to generate some root definitions of a CoP. My starting
        point is Snyder's view that a CoP is the perfect vehicle for knowledge
        transfer and competence development and that members come together to solve
        problems. A CoP is:

        A system owned by its actors (O and A) [who believe in the power of
        collaboration (W) but who otherwise operate in a competitive environment
        (E)] the purpose of which is to improve their (C) collective capacity to
        solve problems in which they have a shared interest as specialists (T).

        The CoP system root definition is startingly different to more typical
        systems explored with SSM.

        i) A CoP is its own customer
        ii) Actors act to transform themselves, they act on each other.
        iii) the actors own the system, which raises the issue of the role of
        sponsors
        iv) actor/owner/customers might have different values to would-be sponsors
        (who, if they are company sponsors must believe in competition and not in
        collaboration , except perhaps in their rhetoric)
        v) Actors collaborate and share in an operating environment that is
        competitive and in which, generally, sharing is considered a danger and
        disadvantageous.

        You could of course decide that the customer was the problem owner, but that
        would change the system from a COP to something like a co-operative
        enterprise or a young company .

        Here's how the system description was derived.

        A summary of SSM is available here:
        http://sern.ucalgary.ca/courses/seng/613/F97/grp4/ssmfinal.html#Stage3_2

        The mnemonic is used to generate a brief but concise description of a human
        activity system, which at the same time puts its operation in context
        (operating environment). CATWOE stands for:

        Customer:  The person/persons/organisation that the system result is
        designed to benefit and also the victims (usually of unintended outcomes of
        the system). The customer is usually external to the system.

        Actor:  The actors perform the activities which contribute to the overall
        result of the system. Actors are resources that act upon the input to
        transform it. It is taken that a resource is not consumed or denatured in
        any way.

        Transformation process:  The result of the system. The result of acting
        upon the input. So SSM is built on the input-output modelling convention.

        Weltanschauung:   The German expression for world view. "The stocks of
        images in our heads, put there by our origins, upbringing and expereince of
        the world, which we use to make sense of the world." Reflected in the
        personal goals and values of the system designer and actors, perhaps taken
        as 'cultural' values. What makes the system meaningful to them.

        Owner:  The person that can shut down the system. Could be a creditor if a
        business. (Could this be the CoP sponsor?)

        Environmental constraints:  External elements exist outside the system which
        it takes as given.  The constraints in the environment. Could be
        environmental context. E.g. acting within a economic region, a particular
        industry, or a particular corporate entity.

        Definitions are always open to negotiation by the stakeholders. Note that
        descriptions get a bit long sometimes so to aid understanding it is
        permissable to leave out a factor or two (usually E A or W).

        Peter Bond
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