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IBM Cambridge Research Center

  Project: Designers Community of Practice

Researchers: Michael Muller, Ken Carey, Rob Corell
Contact: Michael_Muller@us.ibm.com

A Collaborative User Experience Project:

Designers Community of Practice at Lotus, a joint project of the Product Design Group and Collaborative User Experience, has two goals:

  • Support and strengthen Lotus designers as a community of practice
  • Define requirements for Lotus’s new knowledge management portal as a collaborative environment serving diffuse and diverse workplace communities.
The community of designers at Lotus includes visual designers, product designers, usability specialists, UI developers, design researchers, and others with a stake in the design and usability of Lotus products.

Designers are an example of what might be called a "minority discipline" -- specialists who are often assigned to multifunctional teams in which nearly everyone in the team has a different professional background. Specialists in this situation often lack contact with experts in their own field. Many companies are supporting such minority disciplines through communities of practice. Communities of practice are typically diffuse, horizontal networks that help people share knowledge and expertise across organizational boundaries. Influential knowledge management experts have recommended communities of practice for all disciplines in an enterprise, but particularly for the minority disciplines.

We recently completed interviewing and observing designers in the Lotus workplace. We are currently translating those interview results into requirements for social and technological supports for the design community. In later phases, we will enlist community members in designing supporting software and practices for their own community. We hope to provide input on enhancements and features for our new knowledge portal as the environment supporting our software design. As we develop resources specifically for the community of Lotus designers, we also learn more about communities of practice in general.

Related Technical Reports:
TR 99-04 Community Space: Toward Flexible Support for Voluntary Knowledge Communities