Organizational Learning and Communities of Practice in a High-Tech Manufacturing Firm

Author: Barrett, Anthony M.


“ ... There are intellectual reasons for telling this [communities of practice] story. It illustrates some of the very processes the resulting theory is meant to account for – practices, communities, boundaries, and identities. And as a result, underlying this story is the outline of a theory of innovation based on communities of practice ... Schools of education would focus on educational techniques, but it was also necessary to reconsider more fundamental assumptions about learning. In particular, it was important to look at the wide variety of ways people learn successfully in daily life ... The concept of community of practice arose as a unit of analysis of learning in which we could find explanatory mechanisms, while placing at the core of our concerns the learner as a social being in the process of becoming ...” – (from the Foreword) Etienne Wenger, Expert and Consultant on Knowledge Management and Communities of Practice

“For those who are skeptical that a book can be both theoretically and empirically informed and yet be practically helpful, I recommend this book by Dr. Barrett. While this particular study examined a high-tech manufacturing firm, much of the discovered tensions are in organizations in general and small to medium-sized firms in particular. In today’s context within a global economy and the pervasiveness of knowledge work, successfully addressing the following tensions often means whether the organization will survive, much less thrive: individualism vs. collectivism, competition vs. cooperation and/or collaboration, espoused values vs. daily practice, educative vs. mis-educative experiences ...” – Professor James A. Gregson, University of Idaho

“Dr. Barrett argues that ‘the social character of knowledge and human life is seminal to understanding how an organization learns.’ This tenet is central to his work and essential to his contribution to the ongoing controversy about the state of organizational development. This book reinvigorates the side of traditional humanistic values held by the founders of organizational development ... Steeped in Wenger’s communities of practice and his recognition of the complexities of overt and tacit learning, the author extends the thesis by underscoring the imperative that ‘full participation and engagement’ deepens the knowledge in an organization. What, ultimately, is more practical or more valuable?” – Gary Brown, Director of The Center for Teaching, Learning, & Technology, Washington State University

Table of Contents

Foreword by Etienne Wenger
1. Research Design
2. Patterns in the Organizational Learning Literature
3. Data Analysis
4. The Assembly Context