Title: The creation of social and intellectual capital in virtual communities of practice: shaping social structure in virtual communities of practice

Authors: Iwan Von Wartburg, Katja Rost, Thorsten Teichert

Addresses: Marketing and Innovation, University of Hamburg, Von-Melle-Park 5, Hamburg D-20146, Germany. ' Institute for Organization and Administrative Science, University of Zurich, Plattenstrasse 14, Zurich CH-8032, Switzerland. ' Marketing and Innovation, University of Hamburg, Von-Melle-Park 5, Hamburg D-20146, Germany

Abstract: Virtual Communities of Practice (VCoPs) are Communities of Practice (CoPs) characterised by at least partially virtual interactions. CoPs are informal groups of people that share expertise and passion for actual practice within and on behalf of an organisation. CoPs are often said to be a more effective organisational form for knowledge creation than traditional and formal ways of structuring interaction. On the other hand, the informal nature of learning processes in CoPs is likely to stimulate managerial reluctance against introducing CoPs because of a lack of manageability of these learning collectives. We propose at least partial manageability of learning processes in VCoPs and develop a conceptual transformation framework for knowledge generation in VCoPs. On the basis of the proposed framework, testable hypotheses about how firms can manage knowledge generation in VCoPs at least indirectly, that is, by shaping the social structure within VCoPs, are derived.

Keywords: communities of practice; social capital; intellectual capital; knowledge creation; learning in practice; innovation; virtual communities; web-based communities; learning processes; knowledge generation.

DOI: 10.1504/IJLC.2006.010972

International Journal of Learning and Change, 2006 Vol.1 No.3, pp.299 - 316

Published online: 24 Sep 2006 *

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