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Communities of Practice

Osprey’s commitment to helping clients to support their services and design new, innovative offerings has led to our research and development of communities of practice, known as CoP.

A community of practice refers to the process of social learning that occurs when people sharing a common interest in a field or around solving a specific problem collaborate over an extended period to exchange ideas, find solutions, and expand the knowledge base. User communities can generate value for organizations which can tap new ideas to spark innovation and enhance their offerings.

Service organizations are beginning to tap communities of practice to design new services that enhance the customer’s experience. Osprey’s approach is to guide companies to attract and connect members through technology, creating a knowledge management framework that enables member interaction and leads to successful “product” design.

We believe that this knowledge management framework might also be useful for other organizations that include communities of practice in their business models. Our model about this drawn from an observation by a pioneer in the field, Etienne Wenger:

Communities of practice… reflect the members' own understanding of what is important. Obviously, outside constraints or directives can influence this understanding, but even then, members develop practices that are their own response to these external influences. Even when a community's actions conform to an external mandate, it is the community—not the mandate—that produces the practice. In this sense, communities of practice are self-organizing systems.

Ideally, all elements—people, process, and technology factors—converge to nurture and sustain successful communities of practice. Our work into this nascent field raises several questions:

  • How can organizations support communities of practice and enhance their development?
  • How do communities evolve while remaining cohesive?
  • How do communities sustain themselves if their membership spans multiple organizations?
  • What can a community of practice do to attract and retain talented members?
  • How can organizations provide a creative, inviting climate that attracts high caliber individuals to the community and encourages their active involvement?

Osprey provides a range of services including CoP operations, development, and launch; collaboration tools and processes; and on-going community facilitation and support to help clients nurture and tap communities of practice.

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