Communications of the ACM published a study on Spotify Guilds / CoPs (Communities of Practice). A CoP is a group of people with similar interests who share their knowledge, solve problems or establish standards. The study examines the challenge of knowledge sharing and networking with active member engagement across physical distributed larger organizations.
Knowledge sharing and networking are beneficial for the organization and the individual itself. Such benefits are amongst others:
- broad perspectives on problems
- standardization and coordination across teams
- expand expertise
- the fun of interacting with colleagues with the same interest
There are many challenges around knowledge sharing within organizations. The large and more distributed the teams are, the higher the challenges are:
- Dedicated time
Lack of dedicated time to attend meetings or to participate in networking.
Project or product work often has a higher priority and by far a higher recognition compared to CoP work.
Lack of community feeling across sites especially with geographically distributed teams.
Recommendations for Knowledge Sharing
CoPs have on average 20% active members and 80% passive/consuming members. Active members report much higher satisfaction and benefits from CoPs compared to passive members. But still, passive members benefit, too, and the whole organization itself. The study lists several recommendations.
- Each CoP has to find out what works for them and whatnot. Therefore, Guilds at Spotify differ.
- Different channels and value-adding activities have to address the needs of regional and cross-site teams, e.g. unconference (e.g. yearly with physical attendance from all sites including external speakers), brown bag lunches (e.g. monthly with regional physical attendance), teleconferences (e.g. monthly with remote attendance across all sites), newsletters, shared Web spaces and discussions/chats, etc.
- Knowledge sharing culture requires that management recognizes the importance of CoP activities. Otherwise, the above-mentioned challenges like dedicated time and priorities can not be solved.
A short video about the topic: