A community of practice (CoP) is usually a group of people with similar skills and interests who share knowledge, make joint decisions, solve problems together, and improve a practice.12 Communities of practice are cultivated for their potential to influence the knowledge culture5,6,7 and bring value for individuals, teams, projects, and organization as the whole. Knowledge exchange in CoPs is enabled through various forms of scheduled and unscheduled social interaction, such as hallway and water-cooler conversations, meetings and conferences, brown bag lunches, newsletters, teleconferences, shared Web spaces, email lists, discussion forums, and synchronous chats.6 Activity repertoires in different CoPs may differ significantly.11
Despite the assumed benefits, implementing successfully functioning CoPs is a challenge,12 and even more so in large-scale distributed contexts. Research into CoPs in various disciplines has determined that successful CoPs highly depend on the organizational support on one hand (budget, incentives, awards, resources, and infrastructure6) and member engagement and regular interaction on the other.5,9,12 Furthermore, researchers found a loop between member engagement and value creation—increased engagement helps a community to generate more value, and increased value stimulates more member engagement.5 While much is known about organic small-scale communities (bottom-up initiatives), achieving member engagement and regular interaction, efficiently sharing knowledge, making joint decisions, and improving a practice collectively across multiple temporary separated locations may introduce significant challenges.
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