Communities of Practice and the Role of Location: Revealing Limits of Virtuality and Knowledge
Communities of practice provide a lens for understanding how knowledge develops and flows in organizations. This perspective highlights how, as a result of shared practice, knowledge flows more easily within a community than across community boundaries. Most prior empirical studies identify communities of practice whose members have similar occupations and thus emphasize knowledge boundaries that are congruent with occupational boundaries. In this paper, we argue that location also shapes practice and thus plays a critical role in defining knowledge boundaries. We use a case from a multinational organization to show that the common work practices, perspectives, and knowledge operational within one organizational location were not shared by employees at other locations. We suggest that, by reemphasizing the often overlooked unity of work, knowledge, and identity existing among functionally diverse, collocated organizational members, while simultaneously drawing attention to knowledge differences emerging between functionally similar members in different locations, this use of the communities of practice lens reveals the limits of virtuality when knowledge creation is at stake.
Sole, Deborah and Huysman, M., "Communities of Practice and the Role of Location: Revealing Limits of Virtuality and Knowledge" (2002). ICIS 2002 Proceedings. 51.