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Finding your role in a community of practice.

February 2, 2011 2 comments

question markA while ago I was inspired by Patrick Lambe’s Personal Knowledge Management: a DIY Guide to Knowledge Management questionnaire about finding out how you share knowledge.  Are you a Collector, Connector, Communicator, Creator, Critic or Consumer.

So from this idea I thought about how this could be used when looking at Communites of Practice

With the vibrancy of a community of practice (CoP) emanating from the people who make it up. The initial commitment and enthusiasm comes from those who serve in the various capacities of support to the CoP. The rest of the community follows their lead and depends upon their contributions for infrastructure and activity. 

Your answers to the questions below will help you identify the role or roles that you could play in a community of practice.

1. A community of practice has been suggested to you. Do you…?

a) think you could promote the community when you’re out and about

b) know who the ‘movers and shakers’ within the relevant field are

c) think you would benefit from being part of a community

d) feel you have a lot of knowledge to share about a particular subject

e) know lots of potential members who you can invite to join the community

f) have lots of ideas to share with the group

2. When deciding the purpose of the community, do you…?

a) make sure that the purpose reflects the wider work area

b) want to know what the key communications messages are, so you can promote the idea

c) want it to help you in your day-to-day work

d) want it to bring experts together

e) want to encourage the sharing of ideas, experience and know-how

f) just want to be kept in the loop at this stage about the direction in which the community might take – it’s important to you, but you want to see the outcome before direct involvement `

3. How do you prefer to communicate?

a) One-to-one, wide-ranging conversations

b) One-to-many interactions, with you taking the lead

c) Find somebody willing to give you advice

d) Professional discussions with other experts

e) Knowing who knows what, re-using information, connecting people

f) Finding information when somebody asks you

4. A question is asked to the community. Do you…?

a) provide a strategic overview that will assist in the answering of the question?

b) know where to go to get relevant sources of information

c) have some experience to share which may be helpful

d) respond with the latest information and know-how

e) know who to contact to get the right information/response

f) try your hardest to answer, particularly when responses aren’t forthcoming.

5. When it comes to contributing to the community, I expect to:

a) not contribute a great deal but, when I do, provide overall context on issues arising out of community discussions

b) share documents (for example: guidance, good practice, reports) with the community

c) dip in, ask questions, and keep up to date with the community’s activities

d) share the latest guidance and practice

e) engage people on the topic, building trust and rapport between members to get the discussion going

f) provide the ‘hot’ topics in my area of work

6. What are your expectations from the community?

a) It will assist me in influencing colleagues and stakeholders about the work area

b) It will assist in meeting my operational targets

c) It will help me to learn from others and bring value to my work

d) I would benefit from using the community as a place to test out new ideas and practice

e) It will engage members and fulfil the community purpose

f) It will keep me up-to-date in my area of work  

Now add up your scores to identify your dominant community role. A higher score means a higher predisposition towards this role.

Mostly As – the sponsor

A sponsor nurtures and provides top-level recognition for the community, thereby encouraging community growth and commitment of resources. As a sponsor, you can link the CoP to specific programs and projects, and pave the way for community success. A community sponsor believes in the value of knowledge sharing, and promotes participation in community activities.

Mostly Bs – the leader

A community leader provides the overall guidance, management, and the personal qualities needed to build and maintain the community. They provide day-to-day support, while serving as an active, contributing member. The leader plays an integral role in the community’s success by energising the sharing process and providing continual nourishment for the community.

Mostly Cs – the member

Community Members must possess a strong desire to collaborate and share knowledge. They take active ownership in the community by participating in its events and activities. They not only form the natural boundary of the practice or expertise, but also drive the level of commitment and growth of the community.

Mostly Ds – the subject matter expert

Subject matter experts are approachability, collaborative, and cooperative. They serve as the keepers of the community’s knowledge and practice, and play a key role in sharing tacit knowledge with the members.

Mostly Es – the facilitator

Facilitators network and connect community members by encouraging participation, facilitating and seeding discussions, and by keeping events and community activities engaging and vibrant. Trustworthiness and the ability to be a team player are central to assuring the credibility and reputation of the facilitator.

Mostly Fs – the core team member

The core team member is instrumental in establishing effective interaction for the community. They play a role in the working group that initially performs start-up activities, like planning. The core team member is knowledgeable and experienced in the area of work, and can advise the group of good practices in the work area.

What Next?

What can you do with this insight into your preferred role?

  • It should give you a clearer idea of your dominant role, and the behaviors that can strengthen that role. The more you reinforce it, the more value you’ll be in a knowledge-based team.
  • It should show you how to identify other people in your group who can play valuable roles within a community of practice
  • It should help you to identify gaps in your own abilities as well as in your group’s, and give some clue to what new behaviours and competencies will fill those gaps – in yourself or others.
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