The book explores in detail the inner workings of an organisational, internationally distributed CoP.
The story starts by setting the context: Knowledge Management (KM) which is driven by pressures such as outsourcing/downsizing/globalisation. In the book we highlight the weaknesses of the ‘traditional’ KM approach of ‘capture-codify-store’ and note that recently there has been a recognition that some knowledge cannot be captured. We then examine the different approaches to this ‘unstructured’ knowledge and note that all of the different terms used to describe it are thinking in terms of opposites – structured versus unstructured. We also note that most of the current approaches to the management of unstructured knowledge fall into the same trap as ‘traditional’ KM and seek ways of converting it to a form where it can be captured. This leads us to the conclusion that a new approach is needed. We propose the terms ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ knowledge as working terms and we seek to define soft knowledge in more detail but, more importantly, we suggest that knowledge be regarded not as opposites but as a duality, ie all knowledge is both hard and soft. It is only the proportions which differ.
CoPs are recognized as groups where soft knowledge is created and sustained, but CoPs are essentially co-located. The question is, in the modern global environment, how could they sustain soft knowledge if they need to operate in a distributed form. The main focus of the book, therefore, is a period of the life of a distributed international CoP following the members as they work, meet, collaborate, interact and socialise.