Skip to the content

Communities of practice in construction case study organisations: Questions and insights

Ruikar, K, Koskela, LJ and Sexton, MG 2009, 'Communities of practice in construction case study organisations: Questions and insights' , Construction Innovation, 9 (4) , pp. 434-448.

[img] PDF - Published Version
Restricted to Repository staff only

Download (226kB) | Request a copy


Purpose – At the heart of knowledge management (KM) are the people – an organisation’s important knowledge asset. Although this is widely acknowledged, businesses seldom understand this axiom in terms of the communities through which individuals develop and share the capacity to create and use knowledge. It is the collective learning that takes place within the social systems, i.e. communities of practice (CoP) that are of particular significance to an organisation from a KM perspective. This paper aims to review, critique, and raise some pertinent questions on the role of CoPs; and with the help of case studies shed light on the “goings-on” in construction practices. Design/methodology/approach – After critically reviewing the literature on CoPs and querying some underlying assertions, this research investigates how these issues are addressed in practice. A case study approach is adopted. Three organisations operating in the construction sector are interviewed for the purpose of this paper. Findings – Case study findings highlight the potential challenges and benefits of CoPs to a construction organisation, the role they play in generating and delivering value to the organisation and their contribution towards the collective organisational intelligence. From the findings, it is clear that the question is not whether communities exist within organisations, but how they deliver value to the organisation. From an organisational perspective, the key challenge is to provide an environment that is conducive to developing and nurturing such communities as opposed to merely creating them. Practical implications – Challenges and benefits demonstrated through the case studies should be taken in context. The findings are not intended to be prescriptive in nature, but are intentionally descriptive to provide contextual data that allow readers to draw their own inferences in the context of their organisations. They should be applied taking into account an organisation’s unique characteristics and differentiators, the dynamics of the environment in which it operates and the culture it harbours within. Originality/value – Investigating the role of CoPs in the context of case study construction organisations forms the prime focus of this paper.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Learning, Knowledge management, Construction industry
Themes: Subjects / Themes > T Technology > TH Building construction
Built and Human Environment
Schools: Schools > College of Science & Technology > School of the Built Environment
Schools > College of Science & Technology > School of the Built Environment > Centre for Built Environment Sustainability and Transformation (BEST)
Journal or Publication Title: Construction Innovation
Publisher: Emerald
Refereed: Yes
ISSN: 1471-4175
Depositing User: LJ Koskela
Date Deposited: 10 Jun 2010 10:48
Last Modified: 29 Oct 2015 01:14
References: Ardichvilli, A., Page, V. and Wentling, T. (2003), “Motivation and barriers to participation in virtual knowledge-sharing communities of practice”, Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 64-77. Brown, J. and Duguid, P. (1991), “Organisational learning and communities of practice: toward a unified view of working”, Learning and Innovation, Organisation Science, Vol. 16 No. 8, pp. 1101-23. Constant, D., Keisler, S. and Sproull, L. (1994), “What’s mine is ours, or is it?”, A study of attitudes about information sharing, Information Systems Research, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 400-21. Dawson, R. (2000), Developing Knowledge-based Client Relationships – The Future of Professional Services, Butterworth-Heinemann, Woburn, MA. Egbu, C. (2005), “Knowledge Management as a Driver for Innovation”, in Anumba, C.J., Egbu, C. and Carrillo, P. (Eds), Knowledge Management in Construction, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 121-31. Egbu, C., Kurul, E., Quintas, P., Hutchinson, V., Anumba, C.J., Ruikar, K. and Al-Ghassani, A. (2003), “Techniques and technologies for knowledge management”, Knowledge Management for Sustainable Construction Competitiveness Project, Partners in Innovation (CI 39/3/709) Work Package 3, Final report, September 2003. Ford,D.P. (2003), “Trust and knowledgemanagement: the seeds of success”, inHolsapple, C.W. (Ed.), Handbook of Knowledge Management, Springer, Berlin, pp. 553-75. Gann, D.M. (2000), Building Innovation: Complex Constructs in a Changing World, Thomas Telford, London. Geiger, D. and Antonacopoulou, E. (2007), “Fostering capability development through communities-of-practice? Exploring the potential of communities-of-practice as a tool for capability management”, Proceedings of the KIM Project Conference, Knowledge and Information Management Through Life, March 28-29, Loughborough University, Loughborough. Gongla, P. and Rizzuto, C.R. (2001), Evolving communities of practice: IBM global services experience, IBM Systems Journal, Vol. 40 No. 4, pp. 842-62. Hildreth, P. and Kimble, C. (2004), Knowledge Networks: Innovation Through Communities of Practice, Idea Group Publishing, Hershey, PA. Lave, J. and Wenger, E. (1991), Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation, Cambridge University Press, New York, NY. Liker, J.K. and Meier, D. (2006), The Toyota Way Fieldbook, A Practical Guide for Implementing Toyota’s 4Ps, Tata McGraw-Hill edition, New Delhi. Lindkvist, L. (2005), “Knowledge communities and knowledge collectivities: a typology of knowledge work in groups”, Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 42 No. 6, pp. 1189-210. Ofek, E. and Sarvary, M. (2001), “Leveraging the customer base: creating competitive advantage through knowledge management”, Management Science, Vol. 47 No. 11, pp. 1441-56. Por, G. (2004), “What is New and Innovative in Collaboration Tools that your Organisation Can Use for Strategic Advantages?”, Introduction to Technology Platforms for Communities of Practice, Version of March 24, 2004. Preece, J. (2004), “Etiquette and trust drive online communities of practice”, Journal of Universal Computer Science, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 294-302. Prokesch, S.E. (1997), “Unleashing the power of learning: an interview with British Petroleum’s John Browne”, Harvard Business Review, September-October, pp. 147-68. Quintas, P. (2005), “The Nature and Dimensions of Knowledge Management”, in Anumba, C.J., Egbu, C. and Carrillo, P. (Eds), Knowledge Management in Construction, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 10-30. Ruggles, R. (1997), “Knowledge tools: using technology to manage knowledge better”, working paper for Ernst and Young, available at: toolsrr.html (accessed November 4, 2005). Scarso, E. and Bolisani, E. (2008), “Communities of practice as structures for managing knowledge networked corporations”, Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, Vol. 19 No. 3, pp. 374-90. Sexton, M. and Barrett, P. (2003), “A literature synthesis of innovation in small construction firms: insights, ambiguities and questions”, Construction Management and Economics, Vol. 21, pp. 613-22. Sheehan, T., Poole, D., Lyttle, I. and Egbu, C.O. (2005), “Strategies and business case for knowledge management”, in Anumba, C.J., Egbu, C. and Carrillo, P. (Eds), Knowledge Management in Construction, Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 50-64. Shewhart, W.A. and Deming, W.E. (1939), Statistical Method from the Viewpoint of Quality Control, The Graduate School, The Department of Agriculture, Washington, DC, p. 155. Soy, S. (1997), The Case Study as a Research Method, University of Texas, Austin, TX, available at: *ssoy/useusers/1391d1b.htm (accessed July, 2008). Wenger, E. (1998a), Communities of Practice, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. Wenger, E. (1998b), Communities of Practice: Learning as a Social System, Systems Thinker, Community Intelligence Labs, available at: (accessed March 25, 2008). Wenger, E. (1999), Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, MA. Wenger, E. (2008), “Communities of practice: a brief introduction”, available at: January 15, 2008). Yin, R.K. (1984), Case Study Research: Design and Methods, Sage, Newbury Park, CA. Zarraga-Oberty, C. and Saa-Perez, P.D. (2006), “Work teams favor knowledge management: towards communities of practice”, European Business Review, Vol. 18 No. 1, pp. 60-76. Zboralski, K. and Gemunden, H.G. (2006), “The impact of communities of practice”, in Coakes, E. and Clarke, S. (Eds), Encyclopaedia of Communities of Practice in Information and Knowledge Management, Idea Group Publishing, Hershey, PA, pp. 218-23.

Actions (login required)

Edit record (repository staff only) Edit record (repository staff only)


Downloads per month over past year