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Cultivating Communities of Practice

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Cultivating Communities of Practice

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A G U I D E TO M A N A G I N G K N O W L E D G E

Cultivating Communities of Practice
Etienne Wenger Richard McDermott William M. Snyder

HARVAR D B US I N E SS SCHOOL PR E SS

Boston, Massachusetts

Copyright 2002 Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, and William M. Snyder All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America 06 05 04 03 02 5 4 3 2 1 Requests for permission to use or reproduce material from this book should be directed to permissions@hbsp.harvard.edu, or mailed to Permissions, Harvard Business School Publishing, 60 Harvard Way, Boston, Massachusetts 02163. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Wenger, Etienne, 1952Cultivating communities of practice : a guide to managing knowledge / Etienne Wenger, Richard McDermott, William Snyder. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 1-57851-330-8 1. Knowledge management. 2. Organizational learning. I. McDermott, Richard A. (Richard Arnold) II. Snyder, William, 1956- III. Title. HD30.2 .W46 2002 658.4'038—dc21 2001051483 The paper used in this publication meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Permanence of Paper for Publications and Documents in Libraries and Archives Z39.48-1992.

from Etienne, to his wife, Paula from Richard, to his dad, F. Arnold McDermott from Bill, to his parents, Pat and Monte

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Contents

Preface

ix

one
Communities of Practice and Their Value to Organizations 1

two
Communities of Practice and Their Structural Elements 23

three
Seven Principles for Cultivating Communities of Practice 49

four
The Early Stages of Development Planning and Launching Communities of Practice 65

viii

Contents

five
The Mature Stages of Development Growing and Sustaining Communities of Practice 93

six
The Challenge of Distributed Communities 113

seven
The Downside of Communities of...

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