From his extensive research, Wenger has identified a number of factors that contribute to the success (and failure) of communities of practices. His ‘top three’ factors include:
- Identification: Communities of practice thrive on social energy, which both derives from and creates identification. Passion for the domain is key. This makes the clear identification of the domain a critical success factor.
- Leadership: A key success factor is the dedication and skill of people who take the initiative to nurture the community. Many communities fail, not because members have lost interest, but simply because nobody has the energy and time to take care of logistics and hold the space for the inquiry.
- Time: Time is a challenge for most communities, whose members have to handle competing priorities. Theoretically, time should not be an issue if the interest is there, but practically it remains a constant challenge. Because time is at such a premium, a key principle of community cultivation is to ensure “high value for time” for all those who invest themselves.
The research describes a number of factors for success including:
- Identifying a domain that energizes a core group
- Recruiting a skillful and reputable facilitator
- Tapping into the expertise of local and international experts
- Addressing details of practice
- Establishing the right rhythm and mix of activities
- Having visible support of organizational leaders, but without micro-management
- Accessing adequate resources in order to reduce barriers to participation.
The research also identifies these additional factors that contribute to a successful community of practice:
- a sense of ownership
- the level of trust
- recognition for contributions
- high expectations for value creation
- organizational support
- connection to a broader field
- interactions with other communities.