Participation in virtual communities of practice Case: Eaton's Lean CoP

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School of Economics | Master's thesis
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International Business
Kansainvälinen liiketoiminta
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Objectives of the study The main purpose of this thesis is to provide an understanding of participation in a virtual community of practice (VCoP) of a multinational corporation (MNC). The study intends to clarify how participation in the VCoP varies among the members. Furthermore, the underlying organizational, community and personal characteristics facilitating or inhibiting participation and contribution are studied. Methodology This research is a qualitative single case study. The studied case is the Lean CoP of a multinational corporation Eaton. The main sources of data are 15 semi-structured interviews conducted among the members of the Lean CoP. The interviewees include members who are active in the community and members who do not participate actively in the community. In addition, different company documentation is gathered and analyzed to support the findings. Findings The findings of this thesis imply that the members of the Lean CoP can be categorized into three groups: “critical mass”, “triers and active viewers” and “non-active viewers or list members”. Factors that seem to facilitate participation in the Lean CoP are trust between the members, sense of community among the members, expertise in the practice and an active community leader. Factors inhibiting participation are lack of time, too large amount of information in the Lean CoP, lack of competence and fear of misguiding colleagues or showing ignorance. Findings of this study suggest that an organizational climate supportive for knowledge sharing is a prerequisite for successful VCoPs. In addition, participation in the VCoPs should be made a formal part of employees’ job descriptions in order to generate more engagement in the community.
community of practice, virtual community of practice, multinational corporation, knowledge sharing, participation
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