In our study and leadership of communities of practice, we naturally focus on what is memorable: the beautiful, the good, and the positive. But our critics score the word “community” as too romantic and inherently carrying an overoptimistic view. The power of communities of practice also includes a rather darker side that supports forgetting, unlearning, denial and not-knowing. Even at their most positive, communities of practice play a critical role in UN-learning old practices and views of the world; mal-practitioners are taught or shunned.
Communities of practice include a whole range of subtle social and intellectual manoeuvres, including:
• Organizing exploration and confirmation of new knowledge – agreeing upon what the difference that makes a difference is in their knowledge domain
• Communicating ambiguity and claims about “not knowing.”
• Unlearning old paradigms or ways of thinking.
• Inventing a “them” (or “not-us”) with respect to which a practice has meaning.
• Holding secrets from the outside world as a part of identity and group membership
• How communities hold certain topics as “un-discussable” or irrelevant.