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« Advancing Knowledge and the Knowledge Economy », National Academy of Science, Washington DC, 10-11 January 2005 « On Knowing Communities » Patrick Cohendet,

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Presentation on theme: "« Advancing Knowledge and the Knowledge Economy », National Academy of Science, Washington DC, 10-11 January 2005 « On Knowing Communities » Patrick Cohendet,"— Presentation transcript:

1 « Advancing Knowledge and the Knowledge Economy », National Academy of Science, Washington DC, January 2005 « On Knowing Communities » Patrick Cohendet, University Louis Pasteur BETA, Strasbourg, and HEC Montréal. References: “The architecture of Knowledge: communities, competences and firms”, A. Amin,P.Cohendet, Oxford University Press, January 2004.

2 Plan of the presentation.  1. General characteristics of communities  2. Knowing communities  3. Examples  4. Communities of practice/epistemic communities  5. Differences between knowing communities and hierachical groups.  6. Knowing communities within the firm.

3 Community: general characteristics  Community = group of people who interact directly, frequently and in multi-faceted ways, holds by the respect of a social norm. Connection, not affection, is the defining characteristic of a community. (Bowles, S., and Gintis H., 2000)  Community = alternative mechanism of coordination that complements the functioning of markets and organisations.

4 Knowing Communities  Within a given knowing community, individuals accept to exchange voluntarily and on a regular basis about a common interest or objective in a given field of knowledge.  A knowing community can take in charge the fixed costs associated to the building of a given field of knowledge.  «The proper unit of analysis for knowledge formation in terms of knowing found in practice should be neither individuals nor organizations, but socially distributed activity systems, such as communities” (Engestrom,1993)

5 Examples of Knowing Communities  « Reps» at Xerox (Orr, 1991)  « Hackers » in the Linux case  Group of parents having children with muscular dystrophy (Callon, Rabeharisoa, 2002)  Practical experiences at Siemens, Cisco, IBM,Daimler, Hewlett Packard, etc…...

6 Communities of practice.  Communities of practice [Lave et Wenger, 1991] are groups of persons engaged in the same practice, communicating regularly with one another about their activities (through the circulation of “best practices”).  Members of communities of practice are in contact with the environment and involved in interpretative sense making and adapting. A community of practice - drawing on interaction and participation to act, interpret, innovate and communicate - acts as “a locally negotiated regime of competence”. (Wenger, 1998).  The dominant learning mode is “LPP” (Legitimate peripheral participation), Brown and Duguid (1991).

7 Epistemic communities  Cowan, David et Foray [2000] define epistemic communities as « small groups of agents working on a commonly acknowledged subset of knowledge issues and who at the very least accept a commonly understood procedural authority as essential to the success of their knowledge activities ».  An epistemic community deliberately aims at creating new knowledge.  Epistemic communities can be found in scientific, industrial (designers) and artistic milieu (« schools” of painting, music, schools of cooking, fashion, etc…)

8 Properties of Knowing communities  Communities have no clear boundaries. There is no visible or explicit hierarchy at the top of them that can control the quality of work.  What holds the community together is the passion and commitment of each of its members to a common goal, objective or practice in a given domain of knowledge.  The interactions between members of the community are governed by a type of trust grounded in the respect for the common social norms of the community. Frequency of interactions within the community considerably reduces opportunistic behaviors.

9 Some differences between community and project team  Project team Common goal within a time + cost constraints Under the explicit supervision of hierarchy Newcomers are chosen by the team leader. Difficulty in replicating routines  Community Common passion without time constraint. No explicit hierarchy Newcomers are introduced to the community by the LPP learning mode No difficulty in replicating routines.

10 Knowing communities within the firm.  Organization can be seen «as a collective of communities, not simply of individuals, in which enacting experiments are legitimate, separate community perspectives can be amplified by inter-changes among communities…… Brown, J. S., and Duguid P. (1991).  Out of this friction of competing ideas can come the sort of improvisational sparks necessary for igniting organisational innovation.  Thus large organisations, reflectively structured, are well positioned to be highly innovative. If their internal communities have a reasonable degree of autonomy and independence from the dominant worldview, large organisations might actually accelerate innovation”.

11 Hierarchy and Communities  Hierarchy cannot have strong influences on the internal functioning of communities. It may try transforming the functioning of a hierarchical group (project team) into a community of practice, in particular through the use of ICT (specific electronic site, chat room, etc..).  Hierarchy can have a strong influence on the structure of interactions between communities.  The structure of interactions between communities can be defined along the following two dimensions: Degree of repetitiveness (quantitative dimension) of interactions between communities. Quality of communication (qualitative dimension) between communities

12 Different types of management corresponding to different organizational contexts of interaction between communities. Low repetitiveness of interactions between KCommunities High repetitiveness of interactions between KCommunities Low intensity of communication between KCommunities Category 1 Managerial focus: establishing a full control system (full design & specification decisions, and control decision) Category 2 Managerial focus: solving conflicts, adjudication of disputes. High intensity of communication between KCommunities Category 3 Managerial focus:: (Re)designing the common knowledge platform Category 4 Managerial focus: enacting organizational forms that emerged


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