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A co-opted concept: on the instrumental slippery slope?

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  • John David Smith
    I m getting ready for CPsquare s research and dissertation fest that starts on Monday. A comment in Etienne Wenger s essay (which kicks off the discussions)
    Message 1 of 3 , Nov 21, 2009
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      I'm getting ready for CPsquare's research and dissertation fest that starts
      on Monday. A comment in Etienne Wenger's essay (which kicks off the
      discussions) makes me think of many conversations that we've had here on
      com-prac. After talking about the problems that result when "a community of
      practice" becomes a "design intention" or a "prescribed process", Etienne
      goes on to say:

      "Note that practitioners also have their own critique from the other side.
      They find the concept good in theory, but difficult to apply in practice.
      Communities of practice still do not fit very easily within traditional
      hierarchical organization. Cultivating communities of practice and creating
      an organizational context in which they can flourish is difficult within
      these organizations. Many "designed" communities of practice fail or die
      early. The concern is that their informality and the difficulty to measure
      their value lets them fall through the cracks and lose priority. The word
      "community" itself sometimes arouses suspicion of clubs or unfocused groups.
      A manager declared that a series of self-organized groups sounded too much
      like chaos. And it is indeed difficult to find the right balance between
      enough formality to give them legitimacy in the organization and enough
      informality to let them be peer-oriented, self-governed learning
      partnerships."

      Cultivating communities IS harder than it sounds, don't you agree?

      John
      * John David Smith ~ Voice: 503.963.8229 ~ Skype & Twitter: smithjd
      * Portland, Oregon, USA http://www.learningAlliances.net
      * The book: http://bit.ly/DigitalHabitats by Wenger, White, & Smith
      * "One law for the lion and ox is oppression." - William Blake
    • Derek Chirnside
      ... Yes. I remember a comment in one of Etienne s workshops: We set up these communities, but almost invariably they diverge from our Ministry goals
      Message 2 of 3 , Nov 21, 2009
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        <snip>

        >
        > Cultivating communities IS harder than it sounds, don't you agree?
        >
        Yes. I remember a comment in one of Etienne's workshops: "We set up these
        communities, but almost invariably they diverge from our Ministry goals"

        I have a problem (challenge) here that I have been working on, and I was
        trying to find some information about Michael Kami's work on the net. (He
        has a very small internet footprint)

        This was some "Wit and Wisdom" on his website:
        http://www.mikekami.com/wisdom.html#target2
        A short extract:

        Don't Empower Dummies
        Executives are continuously bombarded with advice to cut levels of
        reporting, to create a flat organization, to push decision-making down to
        the grass roots, to reduce the organizational pyramid, to empower the lower
        levels, to let groups and teams become self-directed, self-sufficient and
        self-governed. That sounds like excellent advice. It would lift morale,
        increase productivity, speed up throughput, improve quality, stimulate
        creativity, increase volume of sales and raise profitability.

        There is, however, an inherent, big danger in doing all the above. The big
        question is: are your people at the lower levels of the organization capable
        of self-government, self-reliance, correct and creative decision making?
        Find out first, before you empower people who may be without proper
        knowledge and without proper ability. They may not be capable to take on
        additional responsibility and perform additional and often difficult new
        tasks. You may be creating a major headache instead of a major improvement.
        Does it mean that cutting organizational levels and empowering down the line
        is wrong? Absolutely not! It's definitely the thing to do. In today's
        global, competitive environment, we must speed up decision-making, actions
        and programs, we must bolster quality and morale and, thus, be able to
        provide better products and services.

        Yes, the business/community model is difficult to marry.
        -Derek

        >
        > John
        > * John David Smith ~ Voice: 503.963.8229 ~ Skype & Twitter: smithjd
        > * Portland, Oregon, USA http://www.learningAlliances.net
        > * The book: http://bit.ly/DigitalHabitats by Wenger, White, & Smith
        > * "One law for the lion and ox is oppression." - William Blake
        >
        >
        >


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • John David Smith
        Derek, One thing that I think is an obstacle to our success is convincing ourselves that the other side is wrong. Last week I was giving a talk about
        Message 3 of 3 , Nov 21, 2009
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          Derek,

          One thing that I think is an obstacle to our success is convincing ourselves
          that "the other side" is wrong. Last week I was giving a talk about
          technology stewardship around webinars. Even though I was speaking with
          conviction about "doing webinars differently from the norm" it occurred to
          me to talk about why they are as they are. It turned out to be a really
          positive move.

          If I were defending "things as they are" I would have to say that "dummies
          are dummies for good reason," although the label "dummies" kinda turns me
          off.

          John
          * John David Smith ~ Voice: 503.963.8229 ~ Skype & Twitter: smithjd
          * Portland, Oregon, USA http://www.learningAlliances.net
          * The book: http://bit.ly/DigitalHabitats by Wenger, White, & Smith
          * "One law for the lion and ox is oppression." - William Blake
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