Happy New Year to everyone from the team at Anecdote. We hope you are returning fresh and fully charged to take on 2006…
I have been thinking about a metaphor that describes communities of practice as ‘the right brain of the organisation’. As we know, the right and left brains are described as performing different functions. Neurosurgeon Richard Bergland describes them as follows: “…your left brain is your verbal and rational brain; it thinks serially and reduces its thoughts to numbers, letters and words. …Your right brain is your non-verbal and intuitive brain; it thinks in patterns, or pictures, composed of ‘whole things’ and does not comprehend reductions, either numbers or letters or words.” The right brain has parallel processing capacity and can detect patterns in large masses of information; it also copes more easily with vague or missing data. Michael LeBoeuf postulates that creative thinking requires coordinating and using both sides of the brain.
It doesn’t take much imagination to see most organisations as having a predominantly left-brain focus, with hierarchical structures, emphasis on quantitative assessments and decision making based on numbers such as head count and return on investment, libraries full of strategies, doctrine, policy and procedure and formal lines of reporting and communication (to name but a few relevant characteristics). Computers can also be described as an electronic extension of our left brains.
Communities of practice traverse most of the formal structures, processes and reporting hierarchies in organisations. They connect people and expertise irrespective of rank, location, specialisation or division. Perhaps they allow us to access the ‘right-brain capabilities‘ of our organisations. If this is the case, and if LeBoeuf is right, then communities of practice are not simply desirable in organisations, they are essential…
About Mark Schenk
Mark works globally with senior leadership teams to improve their ability to communicate clearly and memorably. He has been a Director of Anecdote since 2004 and helped the company grow into one of the world’s leading business storytelling consultancies. Connect with Mark on: