Sunday, December 12, 2010

Communities of Practice: Leading Practices

Communities of Practice (CoP’s) are not a new concept, however, sustaining community enthusiasm, with challenging growth and continual learning experiences, is critical to sustain long term community engagement.

Coined by Etienne Wenger and Jean Lave in the 1990's a community of practice is a group of people who share an interest, a craft, or even a profession. CoPs can exist either online, in discussion groups, in newsgroup, or in real life. They are an evolution from working group like Quality Circles from the 1980's but an evolution in terms as a result of the focus on community from the cultural anthropological perspectives, vs productivity improvement perspectives. The one common learning element was the emphasis on story telling to share knowledge, transfer practices and create shared meanings, and experiences. A community is most healthy when the stories are rich in meaning. One of the key success factors in leading CoP organizations is the constant mining of stories to keep the community fresh, and behaving as a strong learning organism.

This was recently validated by AQPC in their Collaborative Benchmarking Study, however, their insights are not particular new, as those of us who have been experts in Collaboration for over 25 years, know that a community of practice needs to have a strong sense of purpose.

Although it’s fairly easy to hold people’s interest when a community is new, initial enthusiasm often settles into apathy, and keeping members actively engaged can prove challenging. Leading practice organizations typically use several techniques to promote long-term member engagement. These include:

„ providing a center of excellence, or one stop shopping with expertise in content, resources, ask an expert, research sourcing;

„ provide a place for learning by holding regular activities and learning events, and

„ provide a vision for the value of leading and participating in CoPs for leadership development as a core capability important to organizational growth, and ensure leadership measurement systems look for in performance reviews active demonstration of knowledge management, of which participation in CoP’s is a clear expectation of performance accountabilities.

Below is some excerpts from both AQPC research, but also from our research at Helix Commerce.


1.) Provide a center of excellence, or one stop shopping.

Organizations committed to Collaboration, KM or CoP health ensure a Center of Excellence (COE) is clearly established. Companies like: Accenture, Bain, Caterpillar, Conoco, Phillips, Fluor, IBM, and Schlumberger have embedded KM/Collaboration or CoP practices for some time now. New innovators like RIM, have only recently developed CoP strategy capabilities, but with such a young and talented culture, adopting collaboration practices is germane to their unique and creative DNA.

Some of the importance practices needed in a COE is ensuring strong leadership and a governance process for sustaining a long term collaboration vision. Some of the activities they typically do are regularly hosting events and providing learning opportunities, best-practice communities offer a one-stop shop for content and resources. This means that everything related to a particular topic—documentation, how-to articles and videos, discussion forums, collaboration spaces, contact information for experts, notices regarding virtual and in-person events, and so on—is accessible through the community interface. Most elements are available through both “push” mechanisms (i.e., community members can go to their respective communities to search for information) and “pull” mechanisms (i.e., community members can sign up to receive alerts whenever new content and resources become available).

2.) Provide a place for learning

Many communities become places of learning for their members through the myriad of resources they offer, from expertise location services and discussion forums to content repositories and tips documents. For example, Schlumberger’s communities host regular Webinars led by experts, enabling members to expand their knowledge while networking with their peers. Similarly, at ConocoPhillips, career development strategies highlight the importance of community membership as a means of professional growth and development.

Fluor takes this strategy one step further by making its communities a destination for employees seeking career development and learning resources. Information on career paths, formal training opportunities, and links to the learning management system are all available within the communities section of the organization’s knowledge sharing portal. According to Fluor’s vice president of KM and technology strategies, no employee is required to join a community nor, once he or she joins, to be an active member. However, if a person wants to keep abreast of his or her peers professionally, community membership and involvement are critical.

Another technique that best-practice organizations use to keep community members engaged is to schedule regular community activities and events. The type of activity—monthly community
projects, teleconference calls, bi-weekly Webinars led by subject matter experts, lively discussion forum exchanges—does not seem to matter. What is important is that there is a variety of frequent, structured activities that focus on relevant topics or issues and engage a significant portion of a community’s membership. For example, ConocoPhillips’ knowledge sharing team holds an annual, face-to-face Network Leader Summit at the organization’s headquarters where community leaders can network and share tips for managing communities. Schlumberger’s communities hold Webinars hosted by experts once or twice a month, with many Webinars drawing more than 100 participants. Fluor leverages similar activities in addition to some that are unique to the organization, such as an annual campaign to collect and promote KM success stories and a community-based mentoring program that pairs subject matter experts with less experienced colleagues.

3. Provide a vision for the value of leading and participating in CoPs for leadership development as a core capability

For CoP’s to sustain their growth capabilities, leadership needs to ensure there is a clearly defined vision for what a CoP is, why a CoP is a key organizational learning enabler, and what value they bring to an organizations health systems in terms of: innovation, employee engagement & loyalty, customer loyalty, & share holder value (Productivity improvements, and supporting profitable revenue and growth goals).

CoP measurement systems need to be linked carefully to broader KM and collaboration systems. and also performance appraisal systems.

Organizations that regularly inspect the health of their CoP’s against a more strategic KM and collaboration framework will be more successful than those cultures that have inconsistent and lack of integrated collaboration practices.


The key to member engagement for any organization is to establish communities as hubs where employees can get help with tasks, take advantage of professional development opportunities, and/or engage with like-minded peers around issues of mutual interest.

Employees must know that the community can meet their needs. When a community gains a reputation as the place for learning and networking, it becomes a powerful mechanism that ties employees to their colleagues, their departments or functions, and the organization as a whole. Communities are instrumental in making employees feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves. This sense of belonging is a strong motivator for participation and an enabler of long-term community success.

When Dr. Jose Claudio Terra, Heidi Collins and I wrote Collaboration Commerce, we explored the importance of CoPs as a core competency in enabling collaboration health in organizations.

Source Inspiration and Recognition:

APQC’s 2010 report Sustaining Effective Communities of Practice

Monday, December 6, 2010


Today women are entering the workforce and earning college and advanced degrees in numbers equal to or surpassing men. But women still are not advancing into leadership positions as fast as men.

Women hold less than a quarter of the leadership positions in nearly all industries. Women of color fare even worse: Of the 15.7% of corporate officer positions in Fortune 500 companies that women hold, women of color hold just 1.7%.

Part of the reason is due to longstanding discrimination and cultural biases. Part is because some women “off-ramp” to raise their children or care for family members.

But part of the problem also stems from the fact that many women are uncomfortable with the 21st century taboos: power, ambition, money and failure.

As a result, many women manage their careers differently from their male colleagues.

Having risen to senior management early in my personal career before the age of 30, I was already a VP in a tier one bank, I knew then women were not equally represented in leadership and throughout my career over 25 plus years, I have yet to be on a client working team, or a leadership team with 50/50 male/female representation also balanced with cultural /and ethnic diversity

We have come a long way, but we still have a long ways to go, if we are to ensure the collective talent we have mirror's the customer/consumer landscape.

With over 80% of all consumer purchasing decisions being controlled by women, from houses, to cars, to clothes, and toys - women control the decision purse strings in families throughout North America.

Women know what women want and do not need additional filters to interpret their needs. After all there was a book written Men are from Mars, and Women are from Venus, offers insight to explain some of the differences that we know of. Dr. Barbara Anis's research on leadership and gender differences, also reaffirms that for organizations to compete more effectively (in other words design and develop solutions to attract more women to purchase), that innovation and growth is healthier with a stronger and more diverse workforce.

So take a look at your board level representation, your leadership representation, and ask yourself - Are we reflective of our customer market or not?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

TOP 50 Knowledge Management Posts

There are a number of blogs that offer information and insight on knowledge management.

If you are interested in enhancing your ability to manage your knowledge, here are 50 knowledge management blogs that can be of use.

General Knowledge Management

Learn about knowledge management at a more general level. You can find out about a variety of topics related knowledge and how to organize it.

ActKM: Learn about knowledge management and participate in discussions about KM.
Anecdote: A cool knowledge management blog that focuses on stories that can help you learn more about better managing your knowledge.
Gurteen Knowledge Log: A great blog offering different insights on knowledge management and learning, along with other topics that might be of interest.
KM Edge: Helpful insights into knowledge management, and information about how you can keep the flow of information used properly.
Aa..ha!: A great blog that focuses on different aspects of knowledge, and how your brain works.
McGee’s Musings: Learn more about facing knowledge management issues, including great posts on framing problems.
Knowledge Jolt with Jack: Get great perspective and learn helpful knowledge management techniques.
Green Chameleon: Insights on a variety of knowledge management topics.
BRINT: Find out more about knowledge management headlines and tools.
Cognitive Edge: Keep up with what is happening in the world of knowledte management — and learn how you can enhance the way you work.
KM News: Get the latest news and information related to knowledge management.
InsideKnowledge: Headlines, information, commentary and more related to KM.
Matthew Loxton’s KM & OL Blog: A look at knowledge management, business and more.
Conversations with Dina: Interesting thoughts on knowledge, creativity and more.
Dove Lane: You can get insights into knowledge management and learning when you read the writings of this consultant.
Knowledge Management for Development: Find out more about knowledge management from a variety of helpful blog posts from different bloggers. Offers breaking news and information about knowledge management topics.
KnowledgeBoard: Great articles and posts from a community committed to knowledge management.
KM Articles Home: The Knowledge Management Advantage offers helpful and interesting posts on KM and how to use related techniques effectively.
Mathemagenic: A helpful look at how you can use knowledge management in various aspects of your life to enjoy improvement in productivity, and other areas.
Reflexions: Considers patterns of thought, and helpful information on how we manage the knowledge we have.

Web 2.0 and Content Management

Find out more about how the Internet can help you with knowledge, and how to use the web to manage content and information.

Column Two: An awesome blog that offers news and opinion from around the web, mostly dealing with the content aspect of knowledge management.
Seb’s Open Research: Helpful thoughts and insights on social software and how knowledge management is evolving.
Boxes and Arrows: A great design blog that also includes some information on knowledge management — how information is presented online.
chieftech’s blog: This blog is about working online, and includes great information on social media. Helpful for those involved in knowledge management.
Knowledge Management: CIO offers a section on KM, and tips on how you can use it to better management content online.
ELSUA: Looks at Web 2.0, enterprise 2.0, and what you can do to manage it all. Great knowledge management blog.
Dissident: Addresses social media, and questions related to all the Web 2.0 stuff we see around us. A great resource for knowledge management.
Portals and KM: A helpful look at how you can better manage knowledge online. Special emphasis on social media and Web 2.0.
RicShreves.Net: Offers insight and information on content management.
TechnoLawyer Blog: Great information on online management, including content and document management, as well as knowledge management. A good way to learn how to stay on top of your information.
Enterprise Content Management Blog: Information on managing content and information online. Especially helpful for businesses.
Patti Anklam: Learn how to get your network up and running — and stay up and running. A great blog on knowledge management, interconnectedness and the Internet.
Trends in the Living Network: Insightful information on what’s coming when related to online networks. Helpful for knowledge management pros.
Unofficial RedDot CMS Blog: Learn more about content management and Web 2.0 trends that can provide insight and information.
Web 2.0 Blog: Find out more about Web 2.0, and how it can be used to manage your knowledge.
Enterprise Web 2.0: This ZD Net blog offers insights into how the Web and information management online can help business.
The Enterprise Web 2.0 Blog: Hints on how you can use information and knowledge to improve your business.


One of the keys to knowledge management is collaboration. Find out more about collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Apophenia: This blog is more about collaboration and making connections with others. A great place to learn about issues related to connecting meaningfully with others.
All of us are smarter than any of us…: This is a great blog focusing on collaboration and how it can be used in knowledge management.
Collaborative Thinking: Thoughts on software, collaboration and how it all fits together.
Communities and Collaboration: Get more information about how you can collaborate more effectively, and share knowledge within your community.
Full Circle: Learn more about making connections and sharing knowledge — online and offline.
Sustainability Knowledge: Learn about community, sharing and sustainability. An interesting blog with a unique take on knowledge management as it relates to sustainability.
Gilbane Group Blog: This consulting group offers helpful insights into collaboration, content management and more.
Collaborative Strategies: Learn strategies that can help you share information more effectively.
Collaboration 2.0: Using new strategies to successful collaborate and share knowledge.’s Collaboration Blog: Hints and helps to become better at collaborating and managing knowledge.
The Culture of Collaboration: Find out what it takes to build a culture in which knowledge sharing is part of the management process.
The Innovation and Collaboration Blog Jam: Explore the future of information and knowledge organization, as well as organization of other aspects of life. A great way to learn more about collaboration.

Sourced from Miranda, Nov 2010 at Biz-gasm a veritable explosion of business knowledge. We aim to rub out the stiff competition by offering well researched posts, and well formed opinions covering everything in the exciting world of business.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Innovation for Small Businesses

It's almost the end of a business year and the beginning of another. And, as the old saying goes, insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting to get different results. If you want better business results, especially in a slow-growth economy, you'll need to adoptsome fresh new resolutions. The key to improved results is innovative actions that, while they stick within the limits of your budget, also take you in exciting new directions. Here are some resolutions to help small or mid-sized businesses innovate in 2011.

1. Be proactive in 2011.Things change, but do you?

If your business is simply reacting to declining sales, then you are not being a proactive innovator. Be the one who makes change happen, instead of a victim of change. Resolve to take the proverbial bull by the horns in 2011. But how? You will need a few moreresolutions in order to be practically and profitably innovative.

2. Stop doing anything that no longer makes a profit.

The sacred cows of your business have to go. It does notmatter how long you've done something, if it no longer offers both profits and growth, stop doing it!

Most businesses are a mix of break-even activities, losscenters, and one or more sources of profit. For example, a gas station owner may have three properties, one of which is in a high-traffic area and makes a solid profit from pump sales, while another makes a profit only on its large convenience store and food court. The third used to make a profit from both gas sales and repairs, but now barely breaks even. Add it all up, and you have a low-profit business that takes a lot of management effort. Sell the property that barely breaks even, concentrate on the two that have profit centers, and you are heading toward a stronger bottom line with the ability to focus more management attention on building those profits.

It is hard to sell off or close parts of your business that do not make money, especially if your business is small or mid-sized, because all its parts tend to be interlinked. However, by taking this hard step early in the year, it becomes much easier to move ahead with growth-oriented innovations before another year gets away from you.

3. Find your most valuable asset, and make it the core of your business.

Resolution 2 focuses on improving your cash flow. This third resolution helps with your makeover by getting the right strategic mix of hard assets such as property and equipment, and soft assets such as know-how, name recognition, customer lists and reputation. Because assets are illiquid (don't change easily), they tend to lag behind strategy, and hold the business back. Don't let your assets become an anchor to future growth. Ask yourself, Which are our most vital assets for the future, not from the past?

To identify your best assets for growth, look at your business as an outsider would. What would someone else be eager to pay for? This question narrows the list -- sometimes to an alarming degree.

For example, a high-end restaurant and bar specializing in the well-to-do dinner crowd was no longer making a good profit for its owners. The menu and the name, both sources of pride, were no longer valuable assets because they had stopped delivering crowds and profits. The most valuable asset turned out to be the lease because the location was good with ample parking and high visibility in a popular downtown area. The owners promptly jettisoned the menu, costly chefs, sophisticated name and upscale decor, and reopened as areasonably priced beer and burger joint that immediately started to post triple the profits of the old restaurant.

Nostalgia is not bankable. Be practical about what your best asset is and how to put it to use in today's economy. Sell off or discard any asset that won't work hard for you in 2011.

4. Take some time away from your business to think about it.

Nobody is going to come up with a breakthrough growth strategy while repeating the daily routine for the thousandth time. Get away. Go visit some other businesses, both in your industry and outside of it. Have lunch with a different person every day, until you run out of people who'll let you buy a sandwich -- in exchange for picking their brains about new business ideas and models. Stretch your thinking by stretching your routines and horizons. Spend a few weeks soaking up diverse perspectives and seeing people and businesses you don't normally visit.

Fresh eyes help immensely. You could hire an expensive consultant with fresh eyes but with little or no practical knowledge of your business. However, you are more likely to find a new approach that really works if you invest in freshening your own perspective, instead of hiring someone to do your seeing for you.

5. Implement something by midyear.

Yes, it all comes down to doing. Innovation is creative insights applied in a practical manner to your business. Apply yourself and your ideas by making some changes. The sooner you try some new approaches, the sooner you'll test your ideas and learn from your experiences.

Innovations, at least successful ones, do not always spring fully-formed from the owner's mind. They often take a period of experimenting and refining before they work well. So, get started as soon as possible in 2011, and try to have the major kinks worked out of your new strategy by the beginning of 2012. Then you won't have to repeat 2011's resolutions. Instead, you can resolve in 2012 to refine your new business model and harvest a higher levels of growth and profits.

6. Become a seasoned innovator.

Innovation is a specific business skill that takes some study and practice to get good at. Pick up a good book on the subject, quizentrepreneurs and other innovators you admire, and spend at least a half a day each week using the tools innovators use, such as brainstorming (which, contrary to skeptical press coverage, is the only way to produce a rich stew of potential new strategies or designs). Also, make sure your team of employees, distributors, or co-owners is innovative at heart and willing to try new things with the persistence it takes to make them work. If you have some stick-in-the-muds who simply won't consider anything new, then get rid of them. Jettison the naysayers who rain on every new idea, so that you can approachyour new business year with optimism and openness.


Alexander Hiam ( is an entrepreneur, artist, and the author of Business Innovation for Dummies, a how-to guide that offers practical techniques for stimulating imagination and developing ideas into successful innovations.
Bookmark and Share