Communities of practice: fostering learning in the product innovation process

The importance of innovation to the survival of organizations in a turbulent environment has led to greater emphasis on improving the innovation process. The opportunity to do so is enhanced where learning is captured and applied to existing processes, the opportunity exists for improvement in innovation processes. This article presents an analysis of levers (enabling mechanisms) used to foster learning behaviors, and identifies variations between levers used by different occupational clusters. Under study are aspects of occupational culture, and problems associated with examining organizational learning from a single perspective. Although the potential for transferring learning experiences is increased by considering the multiple perspectives of the various communities of practice (e.g., from engineers in one product to the development process to operations managers in the manufacturing process of another product) within organizations, this also triggers a number of potential barriers for the transfer of learning.