A collaborative approach to leveraging innovation best practices

Less than 5% of employee knowledge is actually captured and made accessible across an enterprise. Given this alarming statistic, how do you best harness critical knowledge to support the strategic innovation of your products, services, and processes within an ever-changing, fast-paced, global environment?

To create value for the organization’s internal and external stakeholders, companies must rely on their collective intelligence and shared knowledge to generate best practices. Communities of Practice (CoP) are groups of key stakeholders (both inside and outside the organization) who share a passion for an area of knowledge or practice and interact regularly to learn from one another and advance personal and organizational goals. CoPs provide a collaborative framework for this to take place and are a way of leveraging a company’s best practices by developing, integrating and applying knowledge from diverse sources. CoPs ultimately shape organizational culture, foster innovation, and help attract and retain innovation-focused talent.

The following figure illustrates the relationships among individuals across different business units and partner organizations that form a defined community of practice.

Communities of Practice tap into knowledge and resources at the edges of the social networks responsible for driving business strategy, technology


innovation and implementation. They rely on the fact that their cross-functional members belong to multiple communities, which allows for the community, itself, to stretch its thinking and gain insight into multiple, complementary perspectives. The effectiveness of the community’s contribution to innovation greatly depends on the criticality of the community’s driving purpose, the quality of top leadership’s support and the collaborative and learning processes and activities that underlie the social interactions that support the community’s goals.

Case in point

The National Institute of Health’s business challenge was to drive a large-scale multi-year innovation project that required collaboration between individual functions and across functional groups. Formal meetings and project management tools were too limiting to manage the complex relationships and
interactions necessary for knowledge sharing and implementation. A CoP was created to drive collaboration and knowledge sharing to ensure overall project success, and resulted in the ongoing identification of critical linkages and dependencies and the sharing of best practices within and between groups.