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Information & knowledge sharing within virtual communities of practice (VCoPs)
Ogbamichael, Hermon Berhane
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The concept of virtual community of practice (VCoP) emanates from the need to create a new mode of learning and knowledge creation. It is found that highly structured forums are not necessarily the best way to assist people to learn and improve their knowledge. This then, requires organisations to seek alternative informal ways to share knowledge. The significance of optimising knowledge sharing results in VCoPs receiving considerable attention while searching for new ways to draw on expertise dispersed across global operations. This impacts organisations, thereby enabling them to respond more speedily to the demands of their stakeholders. The fast pace of change in their business environments is also a factor to contend with. Within this context, the use of VCoPs to optimise both, tacit and explicit knowledge sharing within stakeholders, is the central theme of this research. The findings from literature enables the researcher to explore scientific based models that may have the potential to enhance knowledge sharing in an enterprise. The Life Cycle knowledge flow model is found to be the most comprehensive compared to two other models – namely, a Spiral knowledge flow model and Dynamic knowledge flow model. The outflow from the findings in literature is that the Life Cycle knowledge flow model is selected as the basis to conduct two surveys to determine if the model could be adapted to improve knowledge sharing within VCoPs in particular, and in an enterprise in general. The result of the two surveys conducted (in 2011/2012 and 2016), leads to establishing an extended Life Cycle knowledge flow model. The established model enhances knowledge sharing within VCoPs, and in turn, assists when optimising knowledge sharing in an enterprise. This extended model covers six phases of knowledge development to improve knowledge sharing within VCoPs. The first phase enhances the creation of both, tacit and explicit knowledge. The second phase enables to optimise the organisation of knowledge. The third phase enables the formalisation of tacit knowledge, that is, conversion of tacit to explicit knowledge. The fourth phase improves the distribution of knowledge. The fifth phase enables to optimise the application of knowledge and the final phase enables the evolution or continuous development of knowledge. The contribution of this research proposes that a comprehensive knowledge flow model, namely the Life Cycle knowledge flow model found in literature, served as the basis for this research. However, this model was never tested or verified if it indeed optimises knowledge sharing within VCoPs. The two surveys (Survey One 2011/12 and Survey Two 2016) were developed and distributed to respondents to verify the model’s suitability to VcoPs. As a result of responses received from the two surveys, the researcher was then able to develop an extended Life Cycle knowledge flow model that particularly, optimises knowledge sharing within VCoPs. This research further contributes in formulating a scientific based knowledge flow model that can be adapted to social networks. Therefore, this research also creates the foundation to further study to investigate the optimisation of knowledge sharing in social networks. In recent literature, social networks are established as one of the informal mechanisms to share and enhance knowledge sharing in an enterprise.