Playing in communities of practice

I love playing in communities of practice. Not many things light up my brain more than the sort of flow I can achieve when I’m embedded deeply enough in a community of practice that I can smoothly follow a technical discussion, or better yet, anticipate some-but-not-all of the structure and details of a discussion, or better yet, enter into a creative dialog with another practitioner, or better yet, achieve actual artifacts of note within the field. A minute of that stuff is worth days of small talk and regurgitated opining, to me.

(By the way, the book Communities of Practice is pretty cool, from what I was able to read before someone else recalled it.)

At a recent Ames MakerSpace meeting, we were talking about the mission of the group. There already exists a mission statement, but if I were to state my personal mission as a member of the group, it would be something along the lines of: to facilitate growth within, and connections between, local communities of practice. I suppose that sounds pretty generic, but there’s a reason: any community of practice is fun to interact with if my interlocutors bring passion*.

It also might sound strange that I didn’t mention the tools and the space. That’s because the people and connections have a lot more value to me than those. But, I should add that tools and shared space are an important part of the process by which a community of practice forms and deepens its intimacy. These, and the artifacts and works-in-progress created by the community, embody a level of sharing/communication/expression that can’t be achieved by talk alone. It’s amazing what even just a sprinkling of that stuff adds to the interactions.

Seeing and helping others succeed is a great joy for me (I assume that’s true of most other people, too). Aligning myself with appropriate communities of practice helps to ensure a somewhat steady stream of such experience.

 

* In my time with the MakerSpace, I’ve heard people express their passion for, among other things: web development, sewing, miniature cattle, wire sculptures, storm doors, coffee brewing, rapid prototyping, bicycles, recycling electronics, gardens, metal fabrication, alternative currencies, fish, GIS, CNC, radio protocols, ecology, intranet collaboration, solar cells, robots, CAD, image analysis, power tools, winter dress systems, … I’m just scratching the surface, but that’s already a pretty great list. As measured in units of passion-diversity-intensity-per-hour, it’s been a good investment for me.

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