What is a Community of Practice? The term arose out of the human and organizational development field by cognitive anthropologist Etienne Wenger in 1991. Etienne and collaborator Jean Lave first wrote “Situated Learning” and then “Community’s of Practice” to expand on their ideas.
A community of practice is a group of like-minded individuals who comes together to learn together. For our purposes here, I will add to learn new ways of thinking, feeling, and acting together. When you learn alongside others doing the same things, new ways of being are reinforced through community interaction and the collective field of inquiry that occurs.
Why should you care about this? Because if you really truly want to change a behavior (drinking or eating too much) or learn a new skill (a sport or knitting), finding a group of people to do that with increases your odds of being successful exponentially! Social learning theorists have researched and written volumes on why this is so. Here are a few of the highlights:
- A powerful transfer of knowledge occurs that accelerates the learning curve. When you witness someone practicing new behaviors and the positive consequences of doing so, it makes it that much more doable for you.
- When this happens, a critical piece of learning occurs: the gap between tacit knowledge (theory=knowing how to do something) and explicit knowledge (practice=knowing what to do in real time when you have to apply the knowledge) is lessened. That means you avoid the pitfalls and go right to pleasurable outcomes more and more of the time.
- The group provides a level of personal accountability not experienced anywhere else, because there is a stated expectation that you stand for yourself and by doing so you are standing for every other person in and outside the community.
- This type of accountability generates motivation so that you are likely to take greater degrees of necessary risk in the direction of your desires as you are held by the witnessing eyes and outstretched arms of your community of learners.
- Finally, the greatest reason to get involved in a community of practice is the collaboration that occurs between individuals as they support one another to re-architect their personal lives. As a group, they often create new culture as a result.
You can join an existing group like any one of these:
If you desire to stop an addiction, consider Alcoholic Anonymous. Membership is estimated to be 2 million world wide. http://www.aa.org/
Interested in a spiritual community? Check out The Course In Miracles Study Groups. http://www.miraclecenter.org/
What about losing weight? Don’t go it alone. Find a program that emphasizes community support. http://welcome.weightwatchers.
You can also consider starting your own community of practice. Bestselling authors and thought leaders have become savvy to the idea that their self-help techniques must be practiced as a way of living and not left to the pages of theory. Some even include information on how to start your own study group. You can find a support group for just about anything these days along with web-based communities to make up our growing national and global village.
What community of practice will you join today?
Yours in psyche and spirit,