Communities of Practice

This morning’s keynote speech, given by Richard McDermott of McDermott Consulting, focuses on global knowledge and how to share it via communities of practice. Maybe I missed it, but in amongst his examples of communities of practice for ice cream companies, geologists, nurses, and lawyers, I never heard the phrase "information professional." It doesn’t really matter, since much of his opinions and advice are relevant to any profession and any organization. He noted that productivity for knowledge workers hasn’t improved very much, unlike manufacturing, but that service quality has probably increased. Communities of practice, as vehicles for thinking together for collaborative problem solving, certainly have the potential to create new knowledge and save companies money.

What makes a community successful? McDermott thinks that the most important component is finding people who are passionate about the topic. Plus, communities need structure and support. Too much structure and management oversight, however, will lead to failure.

Several German librarians that I spoke with following the keynote were quite enthusiastic about his talk and told me they thought their U.S. colleagues seemed further ahead in the area of knowledge management than they were in Europe.

Marydee Ojala, Editor ONLINE: The Leading Magazine for Information Professionals

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