On the Psychosocial Determinants of CoP Success

Over the past few years I have been inching along with a thought – what if we looked at Knowledge Management through the lens of psychology, what would we see and what problems and issues would stand out in relief against the many prickly problems faced by KM practitioners.

One that stands out to me is the question of whether CoP success (and we get to define that however we like) is proportional to variation in how much and how its members share knowledge.
When we look at this from a psychosocial perspective, the question that pops out to me is why do some people share knowledge and others don’t, why do some share more and others less.
Is there perhaps a character trait that predisposes people to sharing knowledge, are their environmental pressures and social norms that cause the behavior to vary, are these relatively stable over time and place or do they vary according to some sort of root cause?

Success Factors

Here is the first pass at a list of facets for what constitutes “success” for a CoP:

  1. Longevity
  2. Membership Factors
    1. Member Count
    2. Member Seniority
    3. Member Diversity
  3. Activity
    1. Level of Interaction
    2. Number of meets
    3. Participation
  4. Productivity
    1. Creation of a Controlled Vocabulary
    2. Innovations
    3. Creation of Operational KPIs
    4. Documentation of Best Practices
    5. Degree of Outreach
    6. Efforts in Training & Induction
    7. Mentorship

Psychosocial Constructs

So far this is what I have noted as potential constructs.
The list needs to be expanded somewhat and then trimmed back to only those things that really contribute towards explaining variation in success.

  1. Emotional Intelligence
  2. Locus of Control
  3. OCEAN
  4. Individualism vs Communitarianism
  5. Emotional Investment
  6. Great Leader / Cult of Personality
  7. Action vs Reflection
  8. Conservatism vs Liberalism
  9. Q
  10. Creativity
  11. Frustration Tolerance




Matthew Loxton is a Knowledge Management practitioner, and is a peer reviewer for the Journal of Knowledge Management Research & Practice. Matthew holds a Master’s degree in Knowledge Management from the University of Canberra, and provides pro-bono consulting in Knowledge Management and IT Governance to various medical institutions.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

2 Responses to “On the Psychosocial Determinants of CoP Success”

  1. Matthew Mezey Says:

    Do please put up the comment I wrote here yesterday about your interesting post.


    • Matthew Loxton Says:

      Here is the content of what Matthew Mezey had wanted to post:

      My main point was that you ought to include both ‘horizontal’ measures of personality type – and ‘vertical’/developmental measures such Maslow-based Values Modes, Spiral Dynamics ‘Value Memes’ or Prof Bill Torbert’s ‘Action Logics’.

      Interestingly, OCEAN is a ‘horizontal’ (non-developmental) measure in general – though its ‘Openness’ dimension correlates with Torbert’s Action Logics (which are a vertical measure of cognitive complexity).

      Vertical differences in developmental stage (aka ‘Ways of Knowing’) seem – potentially – to have a huge impact on knowledge-sharing behaviours.

      Though no-one is thinking about this much. Yet.

      If you read this blog post – https://bitly.com/bJraEV (the short section under the sub-heading ‘Your information sharing approach depends on your leadership maturity’), you’ll see how important this variable could be. (And Torbert’s point about why ‘Learning Organisations’ never took off relates to leaders’ psychology too.)

      Something I’ve always meant to do is follow up with a prominent figure in the application of developmental models – Harold Lasker – who then moved into KM and mostly left that stuff behind.

      He might have so much to say – about the point I’m making. (If I actually had his e-mail address I should just contact him).

      I’m just looking at an interview he did, where I’ve noticed that he states: “One of the things we found was that if you brought strangers together in a group and you asked them months later who they liked most in the group, mutual selections were invariably between people within a half [developmental] stage of each other. Ego stage is not just a psychological variable; it’s a social variable. It defines a type of “mindedness” in which birds of a feather literally flock together. You can graph and predict the flocking.” Full interview here: http://integralleadershipreview.com/5496-fresh-perspective-development-and-the-entrepreneur-as-leader-an-interview-with-harry-m-lasker

      Blimey, I’d forgotten he ever said that – it really helps to show that vertical/developmental variables might be a key factor.

      I think that’s enough for me. I’d love to hear how you progress with this…



Leave a Reply to Matthew Loxton Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: