DOI: 10.1287/orsc.2.1.40 ISSN:

Organizational Learning and Communities-of-Practice: Toward a Unified View of Working, Learning, and Innovation

John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid
  • Management of Technology and Innovation
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management
  • Strategy and Management

Recent ethnographic studies of workplace practices indicate that the ways people actually work usually differ fundamentally from the ways organizations describe that work in manuals, training programs, organizational charts, and job descriptions. Nevertheless, organizations tend to rely on the latter in their attempts to understand and improve work practice. We examine one such study. We then relate its conclusions to compatible investigations of learning and of innovation to argue that conventional descriptions of jobs mask not only the ways people work, but also significant learning and innovation generated in the informal communities-of-practice in which they work. By reassessing work, learning, and innovation in the context of actual communities and actual practices, we suggest that the connections between these three become apparent. With a unified view of working, learning, and innovating, it should be possible to reconceive of and redesign organizations to improve all three.