Does a Community of Practice Aid Recently Displaced Workers?

[We’re pleased to welcome authors Dr. David Gray of the University of Greenwich and Dr. Yiannis Gabriel of the University of Bath. They recently published an article in Management Learning entitled “A community of practice or a working psychological group? Group dynamics in core and peripheral community participation,” which is currently free to read for a limited time. Below, Dr. Gray briefly describes their research and its significance to the present:]

mlqb_48_3.coverIn this article, we describe the Silver Academy, a project involving over 100 unemployed and self-employed managers over the age of 50, who came together with the purpose of sharing knowledge and experience in starting up their own businesses. The starting point for the study was whether this group of demoralized managers who had recently experienced traumatic redundancies from highly paid and prestigious jobs could function as a community of practice – whether, in other words, they could function as a community not only supporting each other emotionally but sharing knowledge, skills and networks in radically restarting their lives outside the corporate world. During the project we noted that the Academy successfully matched the notion of a community of practice, in that participants built mutual relationships, shared engagement in activities and came to regard themselves as a ‘forum’, ‘support network’ and a ‘community of interest’. However, applying Bion’s (1961) theory of groups, our study challenges the homogenous and consensual notion of a community of practice, illustrating how, through unconscious group processes, some group members exhibited work-group mentality and the capacity for realistic hard work (and leadership), while others were caught in a basic-assumption mentality, prone to feelings of anxiety, guilt and depression, or in the words of one participant becoming ‘a group of lost souls’. As a longitudinal, three year study, in contrast to the more commonly undertaken cross-sectional studies, ours reveals many of the intricate dynamics, fissures, splits and conflicts in a community of practice that tend to go unreported.

We believe that our research has considerable value at a time of great dislocations in employment patterns, when automation and artificial intelligence will draw increasing numbers of people (including professionals and managers) to situations similar to those facing the members of the Silver Academy. Forming communities of practice aimed at sharing knowledge may be a first step towards discovering new meaningful work opportunities and restoring their careers. The success of such communities of practice, however, will depend on the extent to which they will manage to channel their energy and creativity to productive ends while managing collective and individual anxieties.

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This entry was posted in Management, Management Theory and tagged , , , , , by Cynthia Nalevanko, Senior Editor, SAGE Publishing. Bookmark the permalink.

About Cynthia Nalevanko, Senior Editor, SAGE Publishing

Founded in 1965, SAGE is the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. Known for our commitment to quality and innovation, SAGE has helped inform and educate a global community of scholars, practitioners, researchers, and students across a broad range of subject areas. With over 1500 employees globally from principal offices in Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore, Washington DC, and Melburne, our publishing program includes more than 1000 journals and over 900 books, reference works and databases a year in business, humanities, social sciences, science, technology and medicine. Believing passionately that engaged scholarship lies at the heart of any healthy society and that education is intrinsically valuable, SAGE aims to be the world’s leading independent academic and professional publisher. This means playing a creative role in society by disseminating teaching and research on a global scale, the cornerstones of which are good, long-term relationships, a focus on our markets, and an ability to combine quality and innovation. Leading authors, editors and societies should feel that SAGE is their natural home: we believe in meeting the range of their needs, and in publishing the best of their work. We are a growing company, and our financial success comes from thinking creatively about our markets and actively responding to the needs of our customers.

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