Shawn Callahan from Anecdote wrote a very good white paper on communities of practice called:
Want to manage tacit knowledge? As the title indicates he focuses on the strength of communities of practice to manage tacit knowledge in a rapidly changing business environment. He writes: A common (but misinformed) strategy is to extract and record what people know-and then store it in a database. The problem is that much of this know-how is not amenable to this treatment. It cannot be captured or converted easily. Much of it is unspoken and unrecorded.
There are 3 types of knowledge to consider:
* Things that are not said because everyone understands them and takes them for granted
* Things that are not said because nobody fully understands them
* Things that are not said because, although some people understand them, they cannot costlessly articulate them
Communities of practice help manage tacit knowledge because they enhance the artefacts like documents and tools, which may take on new meaning for the group. Interaction among members of the group enables members to respond quickly to requests because the community of practice has been in the habit of posing and exploring novel questions. And there is the pool of expertise in the community of practice and through the interaction, tacit knowledge is shared.
Yesterday I met Reni, who has studied online interactions and is fascinated by it. She said that tacit knowledge may surface through interactions with other people, because each person touches different 'buttons'. I fully agree with her. That's why I like and am in favour of working together in teams on complex issues, so that knowledge gets surfaced and blended.