Thursday, August 03, 2006

Communities of practice: Sil on knowledge sharing

One of my big questions at the moment is how to distinguish between different types and levels of knowledge in a useful manner. 'Knowledge sharing' is such a container word. The distinction between explicit and tacit knowledge is already useful, as I find the distinction between single/double loop learning introduced by Chris Argyris, but I still think we need more subtleties.

One day in the taxi, my daughter was talking about her new class in school, but I did not understand what she meant, so I asked her to explain again. Then she got annoyed and replied: 'Mom, you don't understand, so I don't want to explain to you'. I think this is an example pointing to a fundamental interpersonal process which determines the depth of knowledge sharing between two people: it is only when you feel that people understand you, that you are invited to share more. I believe it is not a matter of trusting or not trusting, but a matter of having the feeling that someone understand the issues you are grappling with.

Hence, communities of practice with more homogenous groups of practitioners may find it easier to connect, albeit the danger of not stimulating enough innovation. And it stresses the importance to create space for people to connect on a one-to-one basis as well.


Marnix said...

Hi Joitkse, I agree, CoPs work better for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing and creation when the members have an equal understanding of the subject.
When experts are mixed with novices, you will often notice that the experts start a CoP of their own. It is a good practice to seperate the peer-to-peer knowledge creation from the knowledge teaching to the novices. This can be in the same CoP, but then give the experts a private room.

Joitske Hulsebosch said...

thanks for your comment marnix! that reminds me of the story in communities of practice book by Wenger, Snyder and Mc.dermott where the experts withdrew into a separate group because the CoP had become too boring for them.

hoong said...

I don't think it is just the problem between experts and novices. It is also the skills of how to tranfer knowledge. What I mean is, some experts can TALK PLAIN langauge so that the novices do not feel stupid. OR the expert knows how to judge how much to "give" ... to make what is given meaningful.

It is no different from teaching. Experts do need the skills of knowledge transfer.

If you put experts and novices into different pockets, what would be the purpose of KS? KM?

Sometime ago I mentioned: perhaps the key to knowledge sharing is NOT to ask experts to come and talk, BUT to TEACH novices/greens how to ASK questions. Well, to do that, we have a different ball-game. Learning to ask good questions is the key to success of KM. I strongly believe.

Joitske Hulsebosch said...

Hi Cindy, in a way, experts are also the ones asking the better questions. But the thing is the an expert talking to a peer, will get into a different conversation than an expert talking to a novice.