Category: Community of Practice

The Three Essential Elements of a Community of Practice—Part 2: Community

Essential elements of a community of Practice: CommunityDo you ever feel invisible at work or amongst colleagues? As far as most business teams are concerned, the element of “community” is often neglected. In most teams, communication only flows one way: from the top, down. Goals and decisions are made by management, with little consideration paid to those lower down on the totem pole. 

However, a Community of Practice (CoP) is different. As I mentioned in the first post of this three-part series, you can think about a CoP as being made up of three main parts: domain, community, and practice. Without all of these elements, including community, it might be a team but it’s not a CoP.

What we find is that with most business teams the focus is on the “practice” (the third element which we will be discussing in the next article), to the exclusion of the other two elements. So, let’s dive into the second element of a Community of Practice and answer the question: Why is “community” so important to the success of a CoP and how can it be fostered? 

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The Three Essential Elements of a Community of Practice—Part 1: Domain

Essential elements of a community of Practice: Domain. When I lead training sessions on Communities of Practice, we often begin by analyzing the groups we already belong to identify those that fit the criteria of a Community of Practice (CoP). Are you already part of a CoP, perhaps without even being aware of it? What are the defining elements? What makes it different from other business teams?

It turns out that you can think about a CoP as being comprised of three main elements: domain, community, and practice. Without even one of these elements, it might be a community or a team but it’s simply not a CoP. 

This is the first of a series of three articles on these three must-have elements of a CoP. We will dive into each one starting with—Domain. 

Domain—What is it?

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4 Reasons Why You Need to Join a Community of Practice

A Community of Practice works together.What do all of the following success stories have in common?

The math department “dream team” that increased academic achievement for at-risk kids with an unheard-of 70-point gain in one year.

The team of school principals who collectively interviewed and determined which candidate was best suited at which campus across the school district.

The leadership team whose program ideas were so fruitful, they gained national recognition and became featured speakers at several high visibility conferences.

Answer: They were all the result of a Community of Practice. 

My experience with Communities of Practice has been such an overwhelmingly positive one over the years. I was involved in all of the above examples! But it begs this question:

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How to Encourage a Learning Culture in Your Organization

A group of business-people part of a successful learning culture.“The organizations that will truly excel in the future will be the organizations that discover how to tap people’s commitment and capacity to learn at all levels in an organization.” – Peter Senge

Creative… innovative… proactive… are these the words you would use to describe your organization? Or does it feel like you and your team are always a little bit behind the curve and doing what you can to just survive? The difference lies in what kind of learning culture your organization promotes.

In my last post, I focused on the power that Social Learning can have and the importance of learning by example in organizations. Leveraging the knowledge of experts within your organization is a great way to increase the overall knowledge base, as well as the potential for adaptive learning. 

What is adaptive learning? Actually, it’s quite simple: identify a problem or an obstacle preventing you from getting somewhere, and then work to solve the problem. 

However, there are limits to adaptive learning. Increasingly, 21st-century organizations require something called generative learning — changing the parameters, and discovering new ways of perceiving and thinking about our problems. 

Promoting this type of learning in your organization requires much more than learning purely by example. It requires a learning culture. Organizations with strong learning cultures have some distinct elements that differentiate them from the rest of the pack. 

5 Basic Elements of a Learning Culture

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How Communities of Practice Work in Education

A community of practice meeting in the field of education“Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.“ – Marian Wright Edelman

After decades developing leaders in the field of education, I came across the concept of a Community of Practice (CoP), and it forever changed my perspective of how educators can work together to make the biggest difference in their community and the world. I learned that the guiding principles behind Communities of Practice have existed long before the terminology was invented—in reality, as long as humans have come together to share ideas on common goals. 

I was thrilled to observe the results of a Community in Practice in the field of education when I served as the team leader on a three-year Site Leader Community of Practice (SLCOP) study in seven school districts across California. Before the Community of Practice was instituted, the site leaders (school principals) were isolated from any peers, and as a result, there was little opportunity for them to network. 

The goal of the SLCOP was to bring these principals together to share their successes and challenges. The Community of Practice also allowed the principles to practice reciprocal learning in order to learn as an aggregated whole. 

This three-year project was a resounding success and it illustrates the benefits of Communities of Practice in educational contexts. Why did this project work out so well? How do Communities of Practice work in education? Let’s explore how it works. 

Why are communities of practice such a good fit for the educational field? 

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Louise J Santiago, PhD
Executive Coach and Organizational Consultant

Where Leadership is Intentional Work

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