In February 2000, Harvard Business Review published a paper entitled “Communities of Practice: An Organisational Frontier” (Wenger & Synder). The exposure that followed allowed “COPS” (Communities of Practice) to diffuse widely and eventually into the sales lexicon.
Many organisations have tried and failed to get on-line communities off the ground. COP thinking is especially relevant in sales, because sales teams have very homogenous goals and challenges, making the effort to share knowledge well worth it.
For example, when a new product is launched, it takes time to learn how to sell it most effectively. A well-established COP will massively accelerate adoption time, as sales people share “how –to’s” and product managers answer the inevitable questions that arise.
Wenger & Synder’s paper offers practical advice of how to get COPs working and organisations with large sales forces (greater than 30) would do well to consider setting them up. Practical experience since has shown that community facilitators are vital to stimulate debate in the right areas.
With so many of us used to social media now, and with so many low cost tools to enable COPs on-line, the idea has definitely come of age.