Communities of Practice Measurement: Focusing on the Right Metrics to Grow Your Company’s Knowledge Capital
Making Sense of Your Company’s Knowledge Capital – Communities of Practice Measurement
Several factors affect the growth of a business or an organisation such as; the economic conditions in a country, changes in government policies, changes in the industry factors, and the competence of the team. In most cases, it’s virtually impossible to control the first three factors. These are external factors that are affected by the local and international community. Fortunately, you can take charge and influence the growth of your team without being pushy about it. One of the best frameworks to do this is through the formation of communities of practice in your company.
What is a Community of Practice?
A community of learners/practice (CoL/CoP) is defined as a group of individuals who shares beliefs, practices and values and actively engages with one another. This learning practice aims to create a system of learning by which both students and educators learn from each other and create a system of knowledge capital. The ability of the community to learn is determined by the members’ ability to gather information and formulate methodologies collectively. By forming communities of practice in your organisation your team learns and grows “organically” in their profession and trade. Also, in return for cultivating this professional growth and learning community, it will affect the growth of your company.
Understanding Knowledge Capital
Knowledge capital is often referred to as the intangible assets of a company. It is comprised of the acquired techniques, knowledge and innovations. The intellectual capital guides a company in making decisions. It also gives a company a higher competitive edge because the employees have access to the necessary knowledge and techniques they need to work.
Human Capital – This may be the skills, information, technique or a different perspective provided by a team member. Other personal values are included such the ability of a person to inspire and drive change.
Reputational Capital – This is the collective voice of a company or community. What are the characteristics of the team? How is the team different from the others? The reputational capital helps increase the collaboration between each member plus external groups such as company partners and affiliates.
Social Capital – This refers to the relationship between the members of a team, the company collaborators, sponsors, partners and other entities. It also covers the personal reputation of the members.
Now that we’ve established the value of Knowledge Capital let’s focus on using the communities of practice measurement that we should apply in assessing your company CoPs.
How to Gauge the Contributions of CoP within your Organisation
More often, it is not easy to measure the success or the contributions of a CoP to a company or an organisation. Etienne Wenger, Beverly Trayner and Maarten de Laat laid out a framework that can be used to assess the value of this type of network. The framework was published by the Open University of Netherlands.
It aims to help organisations and institutions generate both qualitative and quantitative data to help assess the efficacy of the community of practice. Below are the five levels of values and metrics that you can use to evaluate the community of practice in your organisation:
Immediate Value – refers to the valuable interactions or activities between the members of the community. A few examples include helping a team member work on an arduous task, visiting a new office location and assessing the tips provided by a colleague. These activities not only generate value in terms of the collected knowledge but also allows members to explore new perspectives.
Potential Value – not all of member activities or interactions immediately provide value to the community. Some are only saved up for later. For example, a colleague shares how he handled conflicts with other members of the team for future reference. While the issue might never happen again, it still provided valuable information to the team.
Applied Value – some of the knowledge acquired by the community may or may not be useful, which is why they need to be tested through application. Picture a team changing the procedures according to the collated information. Applied value is observed when the team opts to revise a procedure to test the knowledge capital they have.
Realized Value – Continuous improvement is not guaranteed even after a set of knowledge is applied and validated. It is also crucial to identify the effects of applying such knowledge. For example, once the changes are implemented, what are the effects observed for both the team and each member?
Reframing Value – there are instances when a proven knowledge capital changes the way the organisation defines success. For example, changing the procedure did not help the team meet the selling quota, but it led to the uncovering of a new market. This will prompt the team to reassess priorities, strategies, values and even the end goals.
Aside from the framework, you can also assess the benefits you get from establishing communities of practice by correlating the company or group’s productivity to the number of new members, engagement rate, number of successful activities, and rate of resolving disputes.
An Example of an Organisation that Uses Community of Practice to Achieve its Goals
IRRESISTIBLE stands for Including Responsible Research and innovation in cutting Edge Science and Inquiry-based Science education to improve Teacher’s Ability of Bridging Learning Environments. It is a project founded by the European Union last 2013. The project involves ten countries and 14 partner companies.
Their goal is to create activities that help students and help the public understand how Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) works and raise social awareness on the issues that surround it. The project used formal and informal learning approaches.
Their learning community is comprised of teachers who work in classrooms, researchers who use high-end technology, science centres which focus on using informal teaching approaches and educators who aim to share their knowledge about research.
The project has two phases. During the first phase, ten modules were developed by the CoP on several assigned RRI topics. The modules are then tested by each class. For the second phase, each teacher involved in the first phase will have to train colleagues on how to use the modules. This is one great example of how powerful a CoP can be in terms of Knowledge Capital.
However, having a community of practice is not all sunshine and roses. There are “dangers” to a community such as the tendency to become impermeable due to the history of the group and their established way of handling matters. Over time, if the strategy and the system used by the CoP is not re-evaluated, the group becomes inward-focused.
As such, it is crucial to sustaining the engagement between the members while maintaining the identity of the entire group. Constant negotiation and renegotiation are also required to encourage the development of the community’s knowledge.
Establishing a community of learners within your organisation can help you reap various benefits such as faster resolution of disputes, increased team productivity, more group innovations and lesser time and resources spent on training.
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