Being a practitioner is about more than just having knowledge. It’s about knowing how to use that knowledge. It’s about experience. It comes through practice, time, personal development and feedback.
We’ve been doing a lot of work with large organisations, looking at ways of building knowledge and skills out of the workshop, about building Communities of Practice. This is about creating online spaces where people can come together, in a structured way, to share ideas, to challenge assumptions, to interact and take the best of what they do and mix it up with the best that the Community can offer. It’s not about being told how to do things, it’s about communally created wisdom, institutional knowledge and a willingness to engage with the Community to further both your own and other peoples abilities.
At the heart of a Community of Practice is, funnily enough, a Community, and communities do not come ready made. They need to be created, and the people who create them are the citizens who inhabit them. We can build the technology to facilitate this, but we can’t create the community. Instead, we need to look at how we can generate engagement, how can we encourage people to start working together, a brick at a time, to build the community.
There are various methods of doing this within each of the different parts that can create the online space. Within Forums we can look at structured discussions with experts, preparation of case studies to bring to the group, ways of forming subsets of the group, each of which champions one part of the debate and so on. Sometimes we have to start by engaging with individuals, to start gathering momentum, to start to generate traffic and interest and then build it out from there.
At their very best, online Communities of Practice can be highly energetic, challenging, supportive and nurturing places. We have worked with small groups who have generated more than a hundred thousand words, a books worth of ideas, all within the online space.
Within Coaching and Mentoring there are huge benefits to creating a space to share ideas. These subjects are about communication, about engagement in their own right, and we have to focus on ‘what makes a coaching conversation’, rather than just ‘a conversation’. This is about the nuance, the words used, the body language, the flow, the style and so on. People need to practice these skills, to reflect on their learning and develop their own stylistic language.
We have worked with a wide range of organisations, from Healthcare, through Finance, Manufacturing and Education, but underneath them all are a few truisms. People are expert learners and storytellers. People like to engage, to share, to show off and then learn. Creating the right space for them to do this in can be energising and effective. Harnessing the very best parts of how people engage with informal social spaces, like Facebook, and the very best learning materials and methodologies can be an incredibly engaging affair.