COP – Community of Practice 

Recently in the company I work for, we have set up a COP. Basically a small group of employees meet up on a weekly basis to discuss a topic of choice, which can vary from project management and software development to comparisons between different tools and frameworks.

Why?

The main reason as to why I do this is quite an egoistic reason:

So that I learn and become better.

Even though the company provides us with training, usually training is specific to the type of work we do on a day to day basis. We felt the need to discuss other topics which do not necessary add value to our day-to-day work. We felt that knowing about different areas, we don’t usually work with, helps us become better developers.

How?

The idea is to create an open, informal environment where developers with the same interest can meet up to widen their knowledge on different topics that they are interested in. From the start the idea was that these sessions had to have minimal preparation time. Since these sessions are open they are not really owned by anyone and everything is decided in a democratic manner.

What?

The concept of Knowledge Sharing Sessions is quite easy, there are 3 main roles during the session:

  1. Owner – the selected person chosen to guide the discussion.
  2. Google-er – presents any material prepared by the owner, and makes on the spot Google searches to find any unknowns.
  3. Audience – the rest of us who are encouraged to participate in the discussion.

The session usually starts with the presentation of any material the owner might have found online or prepared. During the presentation anyone can interrupt and challenge the owner. In the cases when the owner is not too sure what the answer the google-er steps in to help find the answer online.

The session then typically ends by some closing comments, were everyone gets a chance to let the rest know what they thought of the session. We also select a topic, owner and google-er for the next session.

Why it worked?

There are a few things that I think made this a success. First of all we tried to get as many stakeholders involved as possible. From the start this didn’t have to have an owner, and in fact this was owned by several people along the way.

The next thing we did is that we started small and grew slowly. The first meeting wasn’t the best one but since we were a small group of friends no one really cared. We then put up some posters around the work place which got some other people interested. Eventually we posted on the work intranet and even more people got to know about it.

So far this has been a great success and the topics are increasing in complexity by the week. One of my beliefs is that ideas are free and should be shared. In teaching others we teach ourselves and together we achieve more. I encourage other employees in different companies to do the same.

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