Essentially, organizations are striving to build their "organizational intelligence." Organizational intelligence is the collective assemblage of all intelligences that contribute towards building a shared vision, renewal process, and direction for the entity, per Liebowitz's primer, Building Organizational Intelligence: A Knowledge Management Primer (CRC Press, 2000). A key part of organizational intelligence is the renewal process in fostering organizational learning within the entity. The ability to transform individual learning into organizational learning is a challenge in the organization. The use of online communities is an important mechanism that organizations are applying to assist in the learning, knowledge preservation, and knowledge sharing and deployment processes. According to Computer Sciences Corporation, there are several good practices for developing communities of practice:
Focus on a compelling need.
Give the group visibility (e.g., publicize in newsletters).
Provide recognition and incentives for participation.
Tell "real life" stories to highlight the value of sharing.
Use both face-to-face meetings periodically and online communities to build social capital and trust.
Get senior management's support and buy-in and have them be advocates to highlight the group to others.
Provide task assignments for group members.
Have a facilitator for the CoP (community of practice).
Make sure group members know their roles.
Start small and pick the "low hanging fruit" that will likely show success.
Use Tech Clubs, such as at DaimlerChrysler and Dow Corning Europe.
Organizational learning is an arduous task, especially for large organizations like government agencies. However, to achieve a human capital strategy, organizational learning—especially in the context of knowledge management—must occur. There are several obstacles that make organizational learning difficult, as expressed by the American Productivity and Quality Center's report "If We Only Knew What We Know" (www.apqc.org):
Organizational structures that promote "silo" thinking, in which locations, divisions, and functions focus on maximizing their own accomplishments and rewards, hoarding information, and thereby suboptimizing the entire organization.
A culture that values personal technical expertise and knowledge creation over knowledge sharing.
The lack of contact, relationships, and common perspectives among people who don't work side-by-side.
An overreliance on transmitting "explicit" rather than "tacit" information.
Not allowing or rewarding people for taking the time to learn and share and help each other outside of their own small corporate village.