Codified CoPs Are Harmful

Conventional, online communities of practice (CoP), with the de rigueur ‘best practices’ (?) are often highly counterproductive. Galaxies of codified information hurt productivity, innovation, growth, prosperity and organizational effectiveness (OE). Codified CoPs are harmful.

Beware of best practice bullies.


Overzealous subject-matter experts (SMEs), with their rose-colored glasses, set out to codify their methods, techniques and tools in elaborate community repositories. Some people call these monolithic corporate monstrosities information suppositories.

Often, people are coerced to adopt best practices. They pretend they have value. This is harmful.

For example, Taiichi Ohno’s inspiration for Toyota Production System (TPS), was developed through an understanding of counter-intuitive truths, a series of challenges to convention. Among the most important was, ‘…to codify method is to impede understanding.

Ohno added, “‘As in everything else, however, regardless of good intentions, an idea does not always evolve in the direction hoped for by its creator.”

Ohno believed as we are doing in Colabria Action Research Networks today: improvement, productivity, innovation, is continuous, a flow, a combination, above all, a conversation.

Community is among many simple network patterns to nurture perpetual social exchange in the enterprise knowledge marketplace.

To improve, do NOT codify; simply comprehend the network flow paths, the social network. Strive to remove flow barriers and broker structural holes.

Again, it is far more important to focus on the ‘practice of community’ than communities of practice. Remember, enterprise excellence it is about connection not collection.

The correct use of CoP technology such as IT and social media tools is to get and stay connected. All organizations already have vast empires of tools and technology to connect easily. Please, resist the Western mindset to believe all problems have a tool solution. Resist codification.

Tool fatigue is among the top reasons CoPs and knowledge management (KM) fail to deliver. Leaders must recall freshman chemistry and strive to understand your organizational valence, i.e., the capability and capacity of the combining power of your people.

Focus on flow not stock. Seek method and technology that increases organizational valence. It’s the only thing that really, really matters.

Nurture high velocity networks. Finally, social network comprehension, visualization, narrative and mastery is the best place to continue to remove barriers and achieve optimal flow through your business ecosystems.

Colabria Action Research


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