Technical Papers

Mechanisms to Initiate Knowledge-Sharing Connections in Communities of Practice


Within many construction and engineering organizations, communities of practice (CoPs) have become an important means for managing knowledge. They are employed to connect employees with technical specialists, which should reduce repeated mistakes, improve technical practice, and generate thought leadership. While organizations often implement CoPs as a means for coordinating specialist knowledge, very little is known about how professionals actually locate and connect with one another, making it difficult for organizations to employ CoPs effectively. To better understand how professionals identify and connect with colleagues, this research first conducted social network analysis to identify existing connections within three intraorganizational CoPs comprised of 1,791 members in two organizations, and then conducted and analyzed 77 interviews about dyadic connections to determine how individuals within these CoPs connected. From this analysis, four mechanisms of connection were identified, including organizational control, organizational opportunity, social networks, and non-person-centered searching. These connection mechanisms include a hybrid of social and organizational structures, reinforcing the need to strategically create and manage CoPs in project-based organizations. More specifically, these conclusions suggest that managerial control within CoPs is still an important mechanism to facilitate knowledge-sharing connections within distributed CoPs.