Creating communities of practices to manage technological knowledge: An evaluation study at Rolls-Royce

Bas Meeuwesen, Hans Berends*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose - In large companies, technological knowledge lies dispersed over individual specialists, business units and locations. Communities of practice (CoPs) are a structure for sharing this dispersed knowledge. However, CoPs are usually seen as being emergent, evolving and elusive. This study aims to investigate if and how it is possible to purposefully create CoPs. Design/methodology/approach - This study describes and evaluates the launch of four CoPs within Rolls-Royce. A combination of quantitative and qualitative methods is used to determine and explain the activities and outcomes of the CoPs. Findings - Each of the CoPs provided benefits to its members, but performance differences were found between the CoPs. Longer existing CoPs were more active as the structural elements and dimensions of CoPs take time to evolve and become balanced. But more active CoPs were not necessarily more beneficial to their members. This is partially explained by the degree to which a CoP focuses on local issues. Practical implications - It is worthwhile to actively pursue the development of CoPs to manage technological knowledge. However, it takes time for CoPs to mature and become effective, and they are never fully under managerial control. Focusing on local issues increases the direct benefits for community members and therewith their commitment to the CoP. Originality/value - This is one of the few evaluation studies of CoPs. While literature often assumes that CoPs have to emerge, this paper finds that it is also possible to purposefully create CoPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-347
Number of pages15
JournalEuropean Journal of Innovation Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Communities
  • Knowledge management
  • Knowledge sharing


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