Understanding Communities of Practice: Taking Stock and Moving Forward

Davide Nicolini*, Igor Pyrko, Omid Omidvar , Agnessa Spanellis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper provides a comprehensive, integrative conceptual review of work on communities of practice (CoPs), defined broadly as groups of people bound together by a common activity, shared expertise, a passion for a joint enterprise, and a desire to learn or improve their practice. We identify three divergent views on the intended purposes and expected effects of CoPs: as mechanisms for fostering learning and knowledge-sharing, as sources of innovation, and as mechanisms to defend interests and perpetuate control over expertise domains. We use these different lenses to make sense of the ways CoPs are conceptualized and to review scholarly work on this topic. We argue that current debate on the future of work and new methodological developments are challenging the received wisdom on CoPs and offer research opportunities and new conceptual combinations. We argue also that the interaction between the lenses and between CoP theory and adjacent literatures might result in new theory and conceptualizations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)680-718
JournalAcademy of Management Annals
Issue number2
Early online date5 Apr 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2022


  • comunities of practice
  • situated learning


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