Communities of Practice

Posted by  Mark Schenk —December 12, 2007
Filed in Collaboration

There are a whole bunch of useful concepts used by organisations to focus their community of practice and knowledge management programs. Some of the more useful and memorable ones are listed below:

  • Learn Before, Learn During, Learn After – the concept used by BP and described by Chris Collison and Geoff Parcell in ‘Learning to Fly’, which remains an excellent practical reference on communities of practice and KM in genel
  • Connections, Conversations, Content – the core concept of the US Army CompanyCommand Professional Forum as described in the book ‘CompanyCommand’ by Nancy Dixon et al. This concept is described as “a network of company commanders who connect in conversation about relevant content to advance the practice of company command” (page 3).
  • Discover and Adopt, Discover and Adapt, Develop and Share – the CoP mantra developed and used by the communities of practice within ExxonMobil
  • Ask, Learn, Share – used by Shell International to provide the focus for their community of practice program. The ‘Shell Blue Book’ remains a fantastic example of collecting and presenting CoP success stories and we previously blogged about it here.


We have been working during the year with Mark Bennett, who is the steward of Rio Tinto’s extensive communities of practice program. Mark has been looking for an appropriate concept to use within Rio Tinto and while liking the concept of ask-learn-share, its linear nature didn’t sit right. So Mark has designed this concept and is testing its utility in simply describing the focus of their CoP initiatives.

Rio Tinto’s coal division here in Australia recently published a booklet called ‘Stories from the Coal Face’ and, inspired by the Shell Blue Book, it describes how CoP have contributed to the business. Mark Quinn (yes, another Mark) is the driving force behind this booklet and behind the CoP activities within the Rio Tinto coal business. It is an internal publication so you might have difficulty getting your hands on a copy, but well worth it if you can.

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. Cory Banks says:

    Some good meanings and catchy adjectives. I have used a similar concept when developing community frameworks: Share, Learn, Grow.
    Cory Banks

Comments are closed.