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What’s the Most Effective Way to Achieve Peer to Peer Knowledge Transfer?

For ‘Peer to Peer’ knowledge transfer, previous research (Wenger 2003) indicates that the most successful method is to establish a Community of Practice, i.e. a group of individuals with similar goals who share their experience, knowledge and understanding on an on-going basis to create a repertoire of resource for the mutual benefit of the entire group. Such a Community of Practice can be one of 2 primary types (Grant & Spender 1996):
  1. Nested – the Community of Practice is located within a single organisation (or within part of an organisation) and therefore no knowledge will leak out, but also no new knowledge will be gained.
  2. Overlapping – the Community of Practice crosses organisational boundaries and therefore brings new knowledge from external sources, but may also leak existing knowledge.

Although Communities of Practice are considered to be the essential mechanism for transferring knowledge on a ‘Peer to Peer’ basis, bringing people together is not enough to ensure that transfer will take place as there are many barriers, e.g. trust, ownership of ideas and insecurity, that need to be overcome. Transfer will only occur after personal relationships have been developed between group members so that they know, understand and trust each other. This then leads to a natural desire to help each other, i.e. the Community of Practice needs to become a social construction (Wenger 2003) before knowledge transfer can commence.

Grant, R. & Spender, J. (1996) ‘Knowledge and the Firm: Overview’, Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 17, pp 5-9.

Wenger, E. (2003) ‘Communities of practice and social learning systems’ in Nicolini, D, Gherardi, S. and Yanow, D. (eds.) Knowing in Organisations: a Practical-Based Approach,New York, M.E.Sharpe.


From → KT Theory

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