Learning Light explores how to build effective communities of practice

From: Learning Light
Published: Tue Feb 06 2007

Speaking at a special seminar at the Learning Technologies conference and exhibition at Olympia, London, on 31st January, Debbie Lawley, a specialist in knowledge and learning who was responsible for developing and implementing communities of practice (CoPs) within the Orange group of companies, provided a unique perspective on establishing effective CoPs.

"CoPs are organisational structures that enable people to gather around knowledge so that they can grow - and innovate - around a common topic," Lawley said.

"CoPs are becoming increasingly important because so much of our work is becoming knowledge-based, rather than the manufacturing process based work that was a feature of the industrial era. Since much of our work is knowledge-based, we are not learning the knowledge that we need fast enough – and overcoming that is a key issue in today’s world," she added.

"CoPs are not about bringing knowledge into the organisation but about helping to grow the knowledge that we need internally within our organisations."

Lawley explained that Orange has been examining its organisational strategy for some five years. It has realised that, as an international company, what makes it a successful business is that it needs to ‘Orange’ on the outside – in terms of its brand – and on the inside (in terms of its bank of corporate knowledge).

"Orange wanted a knowledge and learning strategy," said Lawley. "It didn’t want to leave that sort of thing to chance.

"One key area of this strategy is building and maintaining CoPs."

Lawley added that Orange has found that CoPs work best when they are close to the heart of the organisation. She gave three examples of this – in product marketing; call centres, and in building the Orange network.

"The challenge to CoPs is sustainability," observed Lawley, who outlined the three types of CoP: for consumers, producers and reviewers.

She concluded by urging those who build CoPs to keep the tools used within the CoP ‘engaging’, and to balance the group’s interaction between online communications and all other forms of communication. Her final words on the subject were: "Remember, for a successful CoP, content is everything."

The seminar continued with a number of sessions to gain delegates’ views on CoPs. These sessions were facilitated by Donald Clark the co-founder of the Epic Group who now sits on the board of various e-learning organisations including Ufi and Learning Light; Dr Celia Richardson, an independent learning designer with over ten years experience working with corporations, universities and governments in the strategy, design, development and implementation of technology and learning solutions, and Debbie Carlton, a learning and performance specialist, working mainly in the government sector, including the military and emergency services.

Notes for Editors
About Learning Light Ltd
Learning Light is a non-profit organisation that highlights and promotes best practice in the use of learning technologies. It also builds relationships between learning technology researchers, suppliers, buyers and learners providing learner-centric information to encourage the growth of learning technologies. By sharing comprehensive research, highlighting successes and failures, Learning Light helps to promote the learning technologies community.

Learning Light provides bespoke and individual services to help both buyers and suppliers of learning technologies. Its current services include:

Research Services
Providing access to expert insights, advice and guidance built on in-depth research. Helping organisations to effectively implement learning technologies (e-Learning) and integrate them within their workflow processes.

Membership Services
Partnering with leading thinkers in the industry and providing a network for all interested in the field to share information, knowledge, insight, experience and expertise, through utilising online community tools, networking events, conferences and guru seminars.

Professional Services
Learning Light’s highly experienced team offers organisations access to range of competitively priced consultancy services supporting buyers with the effective implementation of their learning technology (e-Learning) requirements. And, for suppliers, helping to provide a range of services to assist market awareness and generate growth.

In addition, Learning Light provides a comprehensive Professional Development programme to help Learning & Development professionals understand the significance of learning technologies in the workplace today and how to effectively implement them within the workflow processes of their organisation.

Sheffield-based Learning Light is supported by Yorkshire Forward, the regional development agency for Yorkshire, and the Humber and Objective 1 South Yorkshire.

Further information from:
Mark Pittaway/ Kay Simpson, Learning Light, +44 (0)114 201 5703
Bob Little, Bob Little Press & PR, +44 (0)1727 860405

Company: Learning Light
Contact Name: Bob Little
Contact Email: bob.little@dial.pipex.com
Contact Phone: 00 44 (0) 1 727 860405

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