Communities of Practice LO27146

From: Don Dwiggins (
Date: 08/16/01

Replying to LO27115 --

At, thanks for your reply on this subject, which is getting very interesting
to me. I'd like to comment on:

> Dwig, as for your second question, it depends on how we define
> an organisation. If an organisation is defined as legal entitity, then
> I think it is not possible. Communities of Practice are usually
> informally organised. However, I myself do not view only formalised
> institutions as organisations. For example, a flea market is informally
> just as much an organisation as a formal supermarket. I also think
> that within large formal organisations a lot of informal organisation
> often happens. It is sometimes this very informal organisation (with
> the learning which goes with it) within the formal organisation which
> prevents it from collapsing.

Having worked inside organizations of varying size, from a few people to
quite large ones, I have the (perhaps radical) idea that it's not just
"sometimes" -- in fact, the emergent, informal organization is just about
always what gets things done, sometimes in spite of the formal
organization. It's a smart manager that can recognize this and support it,
rather than trying to limit or "control" it.

Incidentally, I wonder if there's a parallel between the informal/formal
organization and the tacit/formal levels of knowledge discussed here a
while back. Is it possible for the tacit and formal levels to be "out of
congruence" with each other? What kinds of dysfunction would be
symptomatic of such a situation? In fact, I remember situations where I
was talked into something (or talked myself into something) even though my
"gut feeling" told me it was wrong; once in a while, my gut was surprised,
but more often it was right. Taking the idea a bit further, what about
tacit/formal learning in individuals and organizations?

With warm wishes on a very warm summer evening,


Don Dwiggins "The truth will make you free, but first it will make you miserable" -- Tom DeMarco

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