Characteristics of communities of practice

By on April 4, 2012

Communities of practice are a group of people sharing their knowledge about a set of problems, concern or common goals present in an organization (Botkin, 1999). In other words, it is a network formed by individuals who share information, communication and help each other to solve the problems (Wenger et. al, 2002). But all groups cannot be considered as communities of practice.

Three characteristics of communities of practice

  1. Domain:  Domain gives an identity to the communities of practice. The members of a community share a common domain of interest. Domain tells about what type of information is to be shared within the community.
  2. Community: Community is a group of people who belong to the same domain and share knowledge in order to help each other. Communities of practice has communities in which people share the knowledge they possess in a particular domain by conducting activities like group discussions and meetings.
  3. Practice:  It is defined as the set of ways to do the work in domains such as communication and problem sharing. Communities of practice have a well defined set of activities to be adapted in sharing knowledge within the community.

These are the three essential characteristics of communities of practice. Every organization has several domains functioning in it. Knowledge sharing and knowledge management is essential in any organization in order to improve the efficiency of its workforce and improve its overall productivity (Saint-Onge & Wallace, 2003).

Thus a communities of practice creates an environment that connects individual people belonging to an organization to share their work experience and ideas about a particular problem (Au, 2000). Communities of practice within an organization therefore is a group of people with like mind to interact with each other, filter, build and learn about doing things better.


  • Au, E. (2000); Connecting people – sharing knowledge: knowledge sharing in an Asian Business Culture, Proceedings of the 2nd Asia Pacific KM Conference, 28-29 November, 2000, Hong Kong.
  • Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. M. (2002). Cultivating communities of practice: A guide to managing knowledge. Boston: Harvard Business School Press
  • Saint-Onge, H., & Wallace, D. (2003). Leveraging communities of practice for strategic advantage. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann
  • Botkin, J. (1999): Smart business: How Knowledge Communities can revolutionize your company, The Tress Press, New York, 1999.


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