Touched on here and there (See my posts of Sept. 10, 2005 on communities of interest; July 21, 2005 on brokering knowledge; and July 25, 2005 about knowledge management and communities of practice.), I haven’t defined communities of practice (sometimes called “communities of interest” or “centers of excellence”). A nice phrasing appears in InsideCounsel, Sept. 2006 at 66, in connection with several innovative steps taken by the law department of Lucent Technologies: “The communities of practice are groups of in-house attorneys that come together monthly or bimonthly to discuss a particular area of the law.”
In my experience, a community of practice sometimes adds material to an intranet site; sometimes invites speakers from law firms; circulates relevant cases and commentary; and often works toward standard terms and definitions in their documentation. At Lucent, there are eight such communities, which cover such topics as competitive intelligence, data privacy, regulatory affairs and open-source software.