“Knowing in action: Beyond Communities of Practice”


Amin, A., & Roberts, J. (2008). Knowing in action: Beyond communities of practice. Research Policy. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2007.11.003

As the race for survival in the knowledge economy intensifies, so too seems the desire to exploit the potential for creativity and innovation offered by CoPs, ever wishful of articulating and harnessing the intangible, the tacit and the practiced – (Amin and Roberts, 2008)

This paper questions the value of such an approach. It does so on the basis of extensive review of literature (management and academic) that uses the terminology of CoPs to describe the situated social practice, learning and knowing.

Argument: that there are different socialities of knowing in action, each requiring a specific terminology, if the varieties of situated learning and knowing are to be appreciated and if the distinctive insight of original CoPs thinking are not to be blurred.

The different variations of the term:

The status of the term as a keyword seems to rest up on a certain loss of the original awareness of context and habitus (Mutch 2003); careless use of the word community (Lindkvist 2005; Robert 2006) and speculation on the link between situated practice and learning or innovation outcomes.

Gherardi (2006, p110) has proposed the term community of practitioners rather than CoPs in order to place the emphasis on “practice” rather than community, in turn also redefining community as “an effect, a performance, realised through the discursive practices of its members”

Lindkvist (2005) has used the term collectivities of practice to refer to temporary groups of project teams concerned with knowledge creation and exchange.

(Brown and Duguid, 1991) have referred to “networks of practice” to describe relations among group members which are significantly looser than those in a community of practice.

KnorrCetina (1999); Gittelman (2007) and Haas (1992) have described communities of specialised knowledge workers as epistemic communities.

Fischer (2001) has described groups of stakeholders from different CoPs brought together to resolve a specific problem as communities of interest.

**contradicting everything else I have read stating that communities of interest were not communities of practice as a community of practice involves a group of professionals; a community of interest in a group of people who share an interest of passion for the same thing**


From the research there are four clear groups of CoPs:

  1. task/craft based
  2. professional
  3. epistemic/highly creative
  4. virtual

The four groups differed along the following four dimensions:

  1. the knowledge used and produced
  2. the nature of social interaction
  3. the kind of innovation undertaken
  4. the organisational dynamic of interaction

There are many overlapping dynamics and differences between different varieties of situated learning.

The use of the term CoP as a proxy for all forms of situated learning is unhelpful.

Spatial and relational proximity should not be treated as the same thing.



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