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Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Never Knowingly Undersold The changing meanings of the term Communities of Practice.

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Presentation on theme: "Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Never Knowingly Undersold The changing meanings of the term Communities of Practice."— Presentation transcript:

1 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Never Knowingly Undersold The changing meanings of the term Communities of Practice

2 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Overview Introduction –Why the phrase Never Knowingly Undersold and its relationship to Communities of Practice Never Knowingly Undersold –An examination of the literature on Communities of Practice looking mainly at the work of Etienne Wenger Conceptual Analysis –An examination of the assumptions that underlie the differing meanings of Community of Practice

3 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Never Knowingly Undersold The claim "Never Knowingly Undersold" has been used continuously since 1925 by a chain of upmarket department stores in the UK called The John Lewis Partnership The implication is that the store will never be beaten on price, and indeed, they guarantee that if a customer can buy the same item for less elsewhere, they will refund the difference While this is an eye-catching headline, the reality is not quite so straight forward

4 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 The Guarantee The Headline –If you have purchased an item from one of our shops and find the same item selling for less elsewhere, we will refund the difference The Small Print –The comparison must be with exactly the same item (brand, model, colour, size etc) –Both we and the competitor must have the item in stock –We match the shelf-edge price the competitor displays not a negotiated or special price for particular individuals (e.g. store card holders). –We take into account hidden extras charged by the competitor, such as delivery charges for items that normally require delivery –We do not price match with outlets which are not conventional shops, e.g. membership clubs, mail order catalogues or the Internet –We do not match closing down sales as these are not trading as normal shops The even smaller print –We only sell top of the range and/or specialist goods so the number of price comparisons you can make will inevitably be limited

5 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 … and Communities of Practice? Just like the phrase Never Knowingly Undersold, the notion of Communities of Practice is used to signify certain desirable qualities which, on closer inspection, may not prove to be all that they first seem Just as the precise meaning of the guarantee Never Knowingly Undersold has changed and evolved over time, so has the meaning of the term Communities of Practice has changed

6 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 The Evolution of a Concept Changes in the concept and changes in meaning –The Early Period (1991 – 1995) Lave and Wenger (1991) Brown and Duguid (1991) –The Middle Period (1996 – 1999) Wenger (1998) –The Late Period (2000 – 2003) Wenger, McDermott and Snyder (2002)

7 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 The Evolution of a Concept For each period: Some Background –What is the historical context for this view of CoPs? An Analysis –What is a CoP, what does it do and how does it work? A Summary –What are the key features of this particular view of CoPs?

8 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 The Early Period Principal Works –Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. –Brown, J. S., & Duguid, P. (1991). Organizational Learning And Communities Of Practice: Toward A Unified View Of Working, Learning, And Innovation. Organization Science, 2(1), Other Works –Eckert, P., & Wenger, E. (1994). From School To Work: An Apprenticeship In Institutional Identity. Palo Alto: Institute For Research On Learning. –Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1990). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Palo Alto: Institute For Research On Learning.

9 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Introduction to The Early Period Background: from little acorns … –All of the work originated in the the Institute for Research on Learning (IRL) at the Xerox Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC) –All shared the same source material –All were concerned with theories of learning Context: theories of learning –Behaviourist Models = transmission of knowledge from the teacher to the learner - the sage on the stage –Constructivist Models = learning as a process of mutual transformation - the guide by your side

10 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation What is a Community of Practice? –A heuristic device not a theory - left as an intuitive notion (Lave & Wenger, 1991, p 26)... a set of relations among persons, activity, and world, over time and in relation with other tangential and overlapping Communities of Practice (p 98) What does it do? –Learning through apprenticeship –Socialisation into a community –Creating a common understanding of:... what they are doing and what that means for their lives and for their communities (p 98)

11 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation How does it work? Legitimate Peripheral Participation (LPP) Legitimate Peripheral Participation provides a way to speak about relations between newcomers and old timers and about activities, identities, artefacts, and communities of knowledge and practice (p 29) –L egitimation is concerned with power and authority relations in the community –P eripherality is more ambiguous, but is concerned with the degree of engagement with a practice –P articipation in an activity that has a shared meaning for the participants

12 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Organizational Learning and Communities of Practice What is a Community of Practice? –An interstitial community, that is a community that exists in the gaps between work as it is defined (canonical practice) and work as it is actually done (non-canonical practice) What does it do? –Maintains a set of social relations that (indirectly) benefit the host organization... to protect the organization from its own shortsightedness (p 43)

13 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Organizational Learning and Communities of Practice How does it work? –The role of LPP is acknowledged, but key activities are seen as Narration (War Stories), Collaboration (Sharing) and Enactment -... the authentic activity of daily work (p 43) –A Community of Practice acts as a: … community of interpretation, for it is through the continual development of these communities that the shared means for interpreting complex activity get formed, transformed, and transmitted (p 47)

14 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 The concept of a Community of Practice in The Early Period Communities of Practice are concerned with learning –Knowledge is not an object but is socially constructed and changes over time –Learning is an activity situated in a practice that has a meaning for the participants –What is learnt might only be valid in the community in which it was learnt Communities of Practice are autonomous groups –They are enacted and mutually constitutive (i.e. they are wild or untamed) –The focus is on what happens inside the community

15 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 The Middle Period Principal Work –Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity. New York: Cambridge University Press. Other Works –Wenger, E. (1998). Communities of Practice: Learning as a Social System. Systems Thinker, 9(5). –Wenger, E. (1996). Communities of Practice: The Social Fabric of a Learning Organization. Healthcare Forum Journal, 39(4),

16 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 The Middle Period Background: The Dawn of a New Era? –The post-industrial / technological / information society –The digital / information / knowledge revolution –The growth of the internet and the dot-com boom Context: The Knowledge Based Economy –Knowledge Management = the need to generate, preserve and leverage (exploit) knowledge –Distributed Working = globalisation, outsourcing and an increasingly informalised workforce

17 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 The Dot-Com Era NASDAQ Composite index

18 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity What is a Community of Practice? –Mutual engagement –Joint enterprise –Shared repertoire What does it do? –A Community of Practice is a forum where learning takes place and where meaning and identity are negotiated –Communities of Practice make work habitable: a significant amount of the processors communal energy goes into making their time at work a liveable realization of their marginality within the corporation and the insurance industry (p 171)

19 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity How does it work? No longer LPP but the interplay of four fundamental dualities:... a single conceptual unit that is formed by two inseparable and mutually constitutive elements whose inherent tensions and complementarity give the concept richness and dynamism (p 66) Participation - Reification Designed - Emergent Identification - Negotiability Local – Global

20 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 The concept of a Community of Practice in The Middle Period A move away from: –Communities of Practice as a way of gaining insight into social leaning towards –Communities of Practice as a means of problem solving and sense-making in an organisation The concept becomes more theoretical and more operationalised Communities of Practice are linked to the external environment Communities of Practice can be nurtured, but they remain untamed

21 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 The Late Period Principal Work –Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press. Other Works –Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems. Organization, 7(2), –Wenger, E., & Snyder, W. (2000). Communities of practice: The organizational frontier. Harvard Business Review, 78(1), –Snyder, W. M., Wenger, E., & Briggs, X. d. S. (2003). Communities of Practice in Government: Leveraging Knowledge for Performance. The Public Manager, 32(4), –Wenger, E., White, N., Smith, J. D., & Rowe, K. (2005). Outiller sa communauté de pratique. In L. Langelier (Ed.), Guide de mise en place et d'animation de communautés de pratique intentionnelles (pp ). Québec: CEFRIO.

22 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 The Late Period Background: surfing the wave –Consultancy, the new reality of the dot-com boom (get large or get lost) and the McKinsyite philosophy of success (move up or get out) –… interest in communities of practice was exploding (Wenger, et al., 2002) –How to avoid a mid life crisis in your CoPs (McDermott, 2004) Context: Communities of Practice to CoPs –Communities of Practice = wild, untamed and unowned –CoPs = controlled, cultivated and for sale

23 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 CoPs - The Next Big Thing? The lifecycle of fads and fashions –… the planets... were aligned [and the book would]... provide a common foundation for this spreading movement (Wenger, et al., 2002, p x)

24 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Cultivating Communities of Practice What is a CoP? –CoPs are:... groups of people informally bound together by shared expertise and passion for a joint enterprise [which can] drive strategy, generate new lines of business, solve problems, promote the spread of best practices, develop professional skills (pp ) What does it do? –CoPs steward knowledge and create value by acting as a tool for cross-organizational collaboration that:... complements formal units to help organizations weave critical connections across formal groups and leverage knowledge for performance (Snyder, et al., 2003)

25 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Cultivating Communities of Practice How does it work? –Wenger, McDermott and Snyder (2002) do not address this issue, but they do describe, in some detail, five stages in: a natural cycle of birth, growth and death (p 68) –Potential –Coalescing –Maturing –Stewardship –Transformation

26 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 The concept of a Community of Practice in the late period The reinvention of Communities of Practice as a managerialist concept (Cox, 2004, p 12) –CoPs are a means to an end –CoPs are not only cultivated but also tamed A profound move away from earlier notions of Communities of Practice –An epistemological shift of focus from unpredictable emergent groups to the inevitable logic of (US style) free market capitalism –An ontological shift of focus from learning and constructivism to knowledge transfer and knowledge management

27 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 So what? Concepts do change over time … … but how do we / should we use concepts? –as sensitizing devices to help focus our investigations –as structuring devices to help us understand the results –as heuristic devices to provide us with new insights but –… there is also a use of concepts which sees them being used in a more rigorous fashion... such an approach means that we have to pay careful attention to our sources, making sure that we give due care to the consequences that the use of a concept brings with it (Mutch, 2003, pp )

28 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 CoPs and nonsense Is there a Correct definition for a Community of Practice / CoP? –Communities of Practice continue to be used in pedagogy and in educational theory –Communities of Practice have provided insights into the use of technology by groups and distributed teams –CoP Theory provides useful insights into both Knowledge Management and Distributed Working Lack of attention to (implied) meaning can create confusing or conflicting accounts

29 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 CoPs and nonsense Lave and Wenger (1991) Brown and Duguid (1991) Wenger (1998) Wenger et al. (2002) We have seen how they differ in terms of specific details, but how do they differ at the conceptual level? To answer this we will first define three axiomatic terms: reality, representation and description

30 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Reality Reality is... that which underlies and is the truth of appearances or phenomena. (OED) It is 'unperceived reality': what actually exists, rather than what is perceived by an individual. Reality is out there and exists whether we know about it or not.

31 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Representation A representation is "... the operation of the mind in forming a clear image or concept. (OED) It is 'perceived reality': the mental model an individual uses to characterise their view of reality. A representation only exists in the mind of the individual and can not be shared directly.

32 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Description A description is "... a statement which describes, sets forth, or portrays'. (OED) It is an externalisation of an individual's internal model of reality made in order to communicate it to others. A description exists independently of an individual and can be shared between a number of individuals.

33 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Putting them all together The representation is created through the perception of reality. In philosophy, this process is the concern of Ontology. Ontology is concerned with theories of existence, asking: What is the essence of the world? The description is created with the intention of communicating with others. In philosophy, this is the concern of Epistemology. Epistemology is concerned with theories of knowledge, asking: What do we know and how do we know it?

34 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Conceptual Differences Community of Practice Lave & Wenger 1991Wenger 1998 CoP Wenger et al 2002

35 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Early vs. Middle Epistemological Shift Knowledge remains socially constructed; learning remains informal Change from LPP to dualities + create links to external world Change from heuristic device to operationalised theory Community of Practice Lave & Wenger 1991Wenger 1998 =

36 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Early + Middle vs. Late Ontological and Epistemological Shift Change from socially constructed knowledge to objective knowledge Change from LPP / dualities to free market economics Change from heuristic device / theory to set of guidelines Community of Practice Lave & Wenger Wenger 1998 Wenger, McDermott & Snyder 2002 CoP

37 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Never Knowingly Undersold? When buying a product –caveat emptor = let the buyer beware When dealing with Communities of Practice literature –caveat lector = let the reader beware

38 Chris Kimble Leeds Reading Group 2006 Questions and/or Comments? Chris Kimble Department of Computer Science, University of York Home: MIS group:


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