Finding the domain for communities of practice

Posted by  Mark Schenk —November 28, 2007
Filed in Culture

One of the key challenges in starting a community of practice is to find the right domain – the topic that people are passionate enough about and interested enough in to contribute some of their discretionary time and effort. One of the tests we use is the ‘I am a …..’ test – designed to find out the topics people identify with. I discovered yesterday that two additional questions can help identify domains:

‘I am passionate about or interested in ….’ – this question helps where someone has an interest in an area but their current role might be outside this topic.

‘I want to be …’ – this question elicits aspirations and can help with new entrants who would be reluctant to describe themselves when answering the ‘I am a …’ question.

I would love to hear other thoughts/hints/tips on helping to identify potential CoP domains.

Mark Schenk 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:


  1. One of the questions I use regularly when talking with someone is:

    “What is it about what you do that you find yourself most passionate about?”

    It might be only 5% of their job, but it’s what they really love. Often it’s the reason they do what they do, and also the reason they put up with the other 95% of their work.

    Of course, if their answer is “nothing”, you have started a very different conversation!


  2. Brad says:

    Another good question for people to ask themselves: I wonder if there is anyone else who might be interested in/know such and such/have a question on…..
    This elicits both a topic and a desire to connect in the one exercise.

  3. joitske says:

    What happens is that someone (sponsor or participant) had thought of a domain definition and I check whether it’s correct or should be wider or narrower. It also happened that people discussed their practices – and we tried to find the common denominator. I have tried the I am a … once, but found that it mostly yield the profession (may be useful too, but not all domains coincide with the whole profession in my experience)

  4. Mark Schenk says:

    Joitske, how do you do the check as to whether the domain description is correct or should be wider or narrower?

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