Les Cahiers du Management Technologique, n spécial 1999 TROISIEME PARTIE LES NOUVELLES TECHNOLOGIES DE L INFORMATION ET DE LA COMMUNICATION

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1 TROISIEME PARTIE LES NOUVELLES TECHNOLOGIES DE L INFORMATION ET DE LA COMMUNICATION 93

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3 TROISIEME PARTIE LES NOUVELLES TECHNOLOGIES DE L'INFORMATION ET DE LA COMMUNICATION LEARNET Transnational Partnership NB : Les informations évoquées sont extraites, pour partie, de documents propriété formelle du Centre TIME et du Fonds Social Européen de la Commission Européenne et ne sauraient être reproduites sans leur autorisation expresse. New forms of work organisation LEARNET Transnational Partnership : une initiative dans le cadre du programme européen ADAPT. Le Centre TIME a travaillé de 1997 à fin 1999 sur le thème de l impact du commerce électronique sur les emplois et compétences en PME. Ce travail a été présenté dans le Numéro Spécial Centre TIME des Cahiers du Management Technologique de 1998, dans un article intitulé : «Etablissement d une méthodologie pour l étude de l impact du commerce électronique sur les emplois et compétences en PME.». Le numéro à venir pour l an 2000 présentera 3 articles de synthèse portant sur les compétences, les processus et les problématiques marketing et organisationnelles auxquelles l entreprise est confrontée. Pour 1999, nous avons choisi de publier les travaux conduits dans le cadre du volet transnational du projet. En effet, il est de mise dans les projets ADAPT qu une activité transnationale soit conduite qui permette le travail d équipes de plusieurs pays autour d un thème commun. Notre partenariat transnational portait sur les nouvelles formes d organisation du travail dans la société de l Information. Le réseau a été baptisé LEARNET (learning network). Outre le développement d un site et la tenue de plusieurs réunions en commun, le groupe a produit un recueil d articles sur le sujet dont nous reproduisons ici une sélection. Une version complète est disponible sur demande. Les partenaires du réseau sont : Technikum Joanneum Copenhagen Business School Centre TIME, Groupe ESC Grenoble Apple Computer Ltd. ISTUD Formedia SIF Autriche Danemark France Irlande Italie Portugal Suède 95

4 Le premier article pose les bases du bon fonctionnement des communautés apprenantes virtuelles. Le second traite des facteurs de succès des organisations apprenantes. Le troisième applique ces principes au cas pratique d une communauté de contremaîtres. Le quatrième se penche sur l apprentissage des comportements coopératifs basés sur les nouvelles technologies en PME. Le cinquième en tire les enseignements en matière de communication dans une entreprise en changement. Le sixième explore à travers deux cas d entreprises l impact du changement induit par l introduction des nouvelles technologies de l information sur la population particulière des commerciaux en PME. Pour ce qui est de la contribution du dernier partenaire, nous avons choisi de publier la version portugaise du cas SACI, un cas d entreprise française développé par nos soins et mis en langue portugaise par notre partenaire. 96

5 New Forms of Work Organisation This material has been developed by the LearNet Transnational Partnership supported by the Adapt Human Resources Community Initiative Adapt is a Human Resources Community Initiative supported by the European Union through the European Social Fund 97

6 Virtual Learning Communities Cristina Godio & Pier Paolo Lo Valvo ISTUD - Italy - VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES AND LEARNING VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES The wide diffusion of the Internet in the last few years has provided new ways and opportunities to work together. Evidence of this trend residing in the increasing number of intranet, extranet and company Web portal. New technologies not only allow more efficient and rapid exchange of information and knowledge they also determine new relationship avenues between people. One phenomenon directly related to these new technologies is the spreading of virtual communities both inside single companies and among various organisations. These virtual environments influence the work organisation as they impact both the relational systems and information flows. Being closely linked with the exchange of information, knowledge and expertise these virtual communities facilitate a new way of learning for members of the organisations. In order to understand these new forms of work organisation and learning it is important to analyse these online social groups. The aim of this paper is to provide a general overview of what constitutes a virtual community, and more specifically, a virtual learning community. It therefore reviews the distinctive features of these on-line social groups and, in particular, explores the reasons for their success. Since the mid-1980s the development of computer networks has given rise to numerous virtual communities. 1 These communities have evolved around the most disparate of topics from the education of children to politics, from economics to medicine, from music to information technology. These forms of aggregation have brought together people with shared interests even if they are physically very distant from each other. Communication in virtual space has enabled relationships to be established and interests deepened with interlocutors otherwise impossible to reach in physical space. One of the first to study the phenomenon was Rheingold, 2 who not only analysed on-line socialization but also founded one of the best-known Internet virtual communities - The Well. Rheingold defines a virtual community as a set of people who communicate with each other via the net. This definition, although extremely general, encompasses numerous phenomena, emphasising the net as a space for free communication among people who share values and interests and are able to meet and conduct unconstrained dialogue. Communities thus defined are MUD (the Multi-User Dungeon role-playing games), the virtual worlds that have evolved from telephone chat lines (a successful example being Alphaworld, where participants can borrow a three-dimensional image an avatar with which to roam the world of Alpha), and conferencing systems, where people can talk about specific topics, find out how others think and write their opinions (examples are the well-known Utne Cafè, The Gate, HotWired). 1 Rheingold, H., Virtual Communities, Sperling & Kupfer, Milan, Rheingold, H., Virtual Communities, Sperling & Kupfer, Milan,

7 Just as a broad definition has been chosen for virtual communities, so a rather general one is used here for virtual learning communities. Innumerable learning communities can be found on the net: from the learning communities organised by universities for their students to the learning communities of professionals who exchange information; from language learning communities to learning communities for children; from MUDs to MOOs (MUDs Object Oriented) to many others besides. My purpose here is not so much to provide a precise and detailed itemization of the various forms that learning communities may assume as to identify their essential features. The term learning community will therefore be used in a rather broad sense, as a group of people who co-operate on-line to exchange and acquire new knowledge and expertise. In general, a virtual community has two dimensions: one participative, the other informative. 3 The informative dimension of a community reflects the importance that a given group of people places on a set of information. The sharing of cultural and/or economic interests induces a group of people to seek access to certain information. The websites which act as the meeting places for the community therefore consist mainly of databases, whose attractiveness depends largely on the completeness of their archives, ease of consultation, and navigation speed. Belonging to these interest communities are, for example, the users of on-line library catalogues, people who consult sites advertising job vacancies, visitors to websites that offer financial information. Those who join these communities make a rational choice: they incur costs (in accessing the site) to obtain benefits (the retrieval of important information). Loyalty to the community does not depend on the quality of the relations established by an individual member with the others, but on the goodness and the relevance of the information available. The second dimension, the participative dimension, is most emphasised by the proponents of the Internet, for whom the web is above all an opportunity for unconstrained dialogue and the exchange of views. Thus the central concern of the community is participating and building relations. In this case the relationship between the individual member and the community is based, not on a rational calculation but on an emotional bond. Belonging to the community does not produce utility in the economic sense, but reflects a need to share experiences and projects that characterize the personalities of the persons involved. Examples of participative virtual communities are certain classic websites like The Wall, where it is possible to take part in on-line debates on a wide variety of topics, or HotWired, where the issues discussed are mainly the web and its effects on culture and society. Virtual communities tend to emphasise the informative dimension on some occasions and the participative one on others. However, this is not to imply that the two dimensions are mutually exclusive. On the contrary, virtual communities are all, to varying extents, relational communities and interest communities. 4 This ambivalence more generally reflects the nature of communicative processes: every form of interaction comprises an informational component and an emotional one. The two components not only co-exist but reinforce each other: the greater the exchange of information, the greater the trust and the intensity of relations among the members of the community. Conversely, the greater the emotional participation, the greater the willingness to share knowledge. Balancing these two dimensions is the first step in a learning process. On the one hand, in a community centred solely on participation, an Internet newsgroup for example, the desires and projects that emerge in the debate are not matched by valid or validated commitments or programmes. On the other, a community centred exclusively on a system of shared interests does not exploit the interactive potential of 3 Micelli, S., Comunità virtuali di consumatori, Economia e Management, no. 2, March, Micelli, S., Comunità virtuali di consumatori, Economia e Management, no. 2, March,

8 the communicative medium, and entirely fails to explore the judgements, suggestions, opinions and projects harboured by the individuals who make up the community. Without a sufficiently developed participative dimension, the community will not generate the system of relations that underpins the information exchange vital for any community. The two dimensions (informative and participative) that characterise virtual communities have, of course, a significant influence on the communication among people both within the organisation and between organisations. Virtual communities offer a new avenue whereby people can exchange and share knowledge, information and expertise. Thus modifying the traditional view of the communication organisation (this aspect is investigated specifically in the fifth chapter The Communication Organisation ). 1. MEETING POINTS Analysis of the literature shows that it is generally more advisable to start a community with a handful of key venues and then let its members extends spaces in relation to their interests and needs. This should obviously not give rise to uncontrolled and haphazard development. The community s members should be empowered to intervene on community s instruments only when they have proved, by their behaviour, that they have an enduring commitment to the community. Otherwise damaging consequences will arise for the quality of the community as a whole. At the same time detailed areas must be created to help new members. Larger communities sometimes set aside forums for discussion on issues of specific interest. It is essential that help be given to new members so that they can rapidly find the forums and topics of interest to them. Sometimes newcomers require controlled induction, not only so that they feel at ease but also to reduce their sense of frustration with more experienced members. It is certainly helpful to create a protected area where novices can learn to formulate questions without feeling ridiculous (e.g. new member orientation, guided tour of the community). To facilitate easier navigation it is also important to provide a general overview of the site (e.g., index, site map, etc.). A more advanced option is to provide members with a personalised map of the system. 2. THE SIZE OF THE COMMUNITY Although some people welcome an opportunity to relate to large and diversified groups, it is generally believed that the content of meetings and forums which involve very large communities are not a great deal of use to participants. Empirical analysis by Cothrel and Williams 5 has shown that people often feel alienated when more closely focused communities have been reorganised into larger units. They lose a large 5 Cothrel Joseph, Williams Ruth L., Online Communities: Helping them Form and Grow, Journal of Knowledge Management, vol.3, no.1,

9 part of the identity previously acquired from interacting with people involved in smaller communities more narrowly focused on a topic. 101

10 A critical mass of membership is certainly necessary to develop a rich knowledge-base, but it is not necessary for all communities to be the same size: some of them operate effectively even with only a dozen members, while others require a much larger number of participants to do so. The difference depends on the number of people required to create a knowledge-base of sufficient richness to enable visitors to find the persons or resources/information they are looking for. In larger communities not all the members feel that they are completely involved. The number of members is so large that it is impossible to get to know the majority of the persons belonging to the community. The absence of a feeling of neighbourliness may inhibit members from actively participating in the community because they lack familiarity with the persons with whom they are exchanging knowledge. By contrast, the members of smaller and more focused communities participate more actively because the goals of the community closely match their needs. The type of knowledge shared in larger communities is often so diversified that it is unlikely that their discussion forums will suit the interests of all members. Conversely, smaller communities have a more closely shared range of knowledge, so that most of their forums are of interest to all their members. The basic problem with these minor communities is bringing them into contact with the community as a whole, thereby creating an adequate flow of information also outside the individual micro-community. Finally, it should be borne in mind that the most successful communities are those in which language and operating procedures are well defined 6. Consequently, new areas of expertise or ones which traverse several disciplines are more difficult to handle because there is a lack of shared language and norms. 3. MEMBER PROFILES A rich and expanding database is probably the most valuable asset of a community. If efficiently managed, this collection of professional profiles will be beneficial to both members and hosts. Member profiles are crucial in helping newcomers to orient themselves within the community. A useful tool for meeting member expectations regarding the features of the site is a backstory : the history of the birth of the community. Recounting this creation myth to newcomers is a key ritual in building the community. With the passage of time, those who were once newcomers recount the story to new generations of members. In this way, the community begins to develop a shared sense of historicity and temporal profundity. 7 Moreover, member profiles are essential for on-line learning communities. Personal narrative is vital because it builds identity in a bodiless place, and provides understanding and support circles. Of relevance is Clark s comment: But why personal narrative? Because in a world of words, the only way to build identity is to tell stories. 8 6 Regarding these considerations is very significant the ninth chapter where the author analyses how a virtual community can be an efficient way to aggregate people belonging to the same professional group (in this case: consultants working with small and medium enterprises). 7 Angehrn A., Leveraging Emerging Technologies in Management Education: Research and Experiences, European Management Journal, vol. 15, no. 3, Clark, C., Let your Online Learning Community Grow, Working Paper, San Diego State University, Department of Educational Technology, May,

11 And the value of personal narrative applies particularly in educational settings: educators need to help learners form identities online because the people belonging to any group need to have identity for it to be a strong group. Otherwise it would resemble a classroom in which the students had no identity of their own. The importance of personal narrative in an educational setting is underlined by MUDs. One of the reasons MUDs have proved to be successful on-line learning communities is that they let students create fully fleshed-out characters and then act them out and take them on adventures. Bruckman has referred to MUDs as identity workshops. 9 Moreover, for educators growing online learning communities should not only ferret out the personal narrative of their students, but also create an identity for the community as a whole by sharing their own personal narratives. 4. LEADERSHIP One of the best ways to improve the quality of a community is to populate it with appropriately prepared hosts. Good hosts are enormously valuable to a community: they welcome new members, keep discussions lively and on-topic, and deal with trouble-makers. Practice is required to acquire these skills: indeed, one of the best-known virtual communities (the WELL) has developed a host programme which comprises a manual, specific discussion areas and even the figure of an uberhost who provides guidance, support and help to hosts in dealing with particularly difficult situations. The best hosts, whose role should be kept distinct from that of the teachers in virtual learning communities, are volunteers. It is essential to reward these volunteers by acknowledging their effort and leadership. The most active should be made to feel privileged insiders, for which purpose they can be provided with personalised services (e.g., identity markers, discounts, etc.). Participation by these volunteers is a key indicator of the performance of a community. When its members want to act as experts, when they want to share information or criticise, this means that the community is considered valuable and that people want to belong to it. The most widespread informal roles are: Supporters of the community: those who try to persuade others to join; Leaders: those who possess more knowledge and experience, are respected by the other members, and play a crucial role in directing the community s development. Experts act as informal leaders and they set the boundaries of discussion. The on-line presence of these experts is one of the most effective ways to attract new members: knowledgeseekers go where they can find answers; Instigators: members who deliberately raise important but controversial issues. One of the main challenges faced by a virtual community manager is finding ways to exploit the energies of people occupying informal roles so that the virtual community as a whole is supported and promoted. 9 Bruckman, A., Emergent Social and Psychological Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual Reality, Working Paper, MIT Media Laboratory,

12 An essential task for the managers of virtual learning communities is fostering the learning process. Community managers must ensure that everyone in the learning group uses computer-mediated communications and that most of their dialogue takes place in the group s electronic workspace, and not through private . Even when the dialogue is informal, a culture is formed on-line which reinforces knowledge sharing and continuous communication. Yet educators are often hesitant to have people with so much power in a learning environment. This is understandable but damaging to the community. In particular, online forums and listservs need to have a maintenance contact for mis-postings, server problems, crashes, and the putting out of flames that can monopolize a discussion. Without persons that everyone knows are responsible for the list or forum, members have noone to go to with problems, no-one to give the place an identity, no-one who cares about the place, no-one to welcome new people, no-one to start new topics, and archive old ones. Clark remarks: Leaderless listservs and online forums are like teacherless classrooms. 10 Hosts in on-line educational forums define the tone of the forum with their personality and writing style, just as they do in other communities. Hosts must welcome all new members, enliven stale topics, define and start new topics, keep conversations on-topic, and read all posts. Hosts start and maintain topics about where to find help, and they help those in need. 5. MANAGING A COMMUNITY Analysis of the lietarture reveals a set of roles which seem to be of major importance for the management of a virtual community: An executive moderator who manages a large number of system operators, who in turn moderate discussions in bulletin boards and chat lines; A community merchandiser who identifies goods and services likely to be attractive to community members, negotiates with the providers, and then markets them creatively and unobtrusively to community members; An executive editor who develops strategy for the community and manages the external providers of content, information and services; An archivist who maintains and organizes the content generated by participants over time; A usage analyst who studies data on participants behaviour within the community and develops programming or editorial recommendations for the producer; A new product developer who keeps the community fresh and distinct from its rivals. A general principle that emerges from successful virtual communities is that on-line learning communities should be grown, not built. On-line communities are strongest when they are nurtured by members into unique and supportive environments. Clark suggests: as architects of online learning communities, it is important to remember to try and control the growth, not the group. My own experience starting the NoEnd group has confirmed this as well. You can create an environment and plant some seeds, but it s the members of a community that grow that community Stewart, B., Harkins, A., Grochowski, J., Virtual Learning Communities, Paper prepared for The World Future Society Conference, Washington D.C., Clark C., Let your Online Learning Community Grow, Working Paper, San Diego State University, Department of Educational Technology, May,

13 In other words, the management and development of a virtual community consists, not in the building of the community but in providing the community with the tools for the task. The members assume the process as they contribute their energy to the community, enabling it to provide support, value, knowledge, and identity. To achieve growth of this kind, the community must be equipped with appropriate tools. At first glance, on-line communities do not even have an environment. But further thinking reveals that they do. The environment of an on-line community consists of the graphic user interface, the look and feel of the design, the tone of welcome messages, and the names given to passwords and banners. In order to foster vibrant and viable online communities, the environment i.e. the technical infrastructure and user interface must provide the means to communicate social cues and information. This is emphasised by Bruckman when she writes: Many of the traditional tools and techniques of architects, such as lighting and texture, will translate into the design of virtual environment. Depending on your choice of background color and texture, type styles, and special fade-in effects, for instance, a Web page can feel playful or gloomy, futuristic or old fashioned, serious or fun, grown-up or child-centered FEEDING THE SITE There is wide debate on the time and effort required in supporting an on-line community. Some argue that once the community dynamic has been created, the virtual community feeds itself suggesting a party analogy - a community is going well when the organizer can leave the room and the conversation continues. However, in the majority of case virtual communities require a significant amount of investment if they are to continue growing. Indeed, almost always the effort required to develop a community is greater than the effort required to launch it. The most frequently cited formal roles are: subject-matter expert, moderator/facilitator, help desk, knowledge manager (this broad term denotes persons who in some way manipulates online information through publishing, categorizing or archiving). 7. INTERACTION AMONG MEMBERS Fostering communication among members is of prime importance, and this applies especially to learning communities. The more communication that takes place, the greater the feedback; the greater the exchange of of experiences and expertise, the greater the reciprocal growth. The members of the community must be able to engage in dialogue. Those who learn, and those able to cope with the difficulties of learning, even if they have different physical and cultural backgrounds, often have the empathy and know how to compare notes, get emotional support and encouragement, obtain advice, and even teach each other. Learning communities are based on interactions among people; users are both learners and producers of knowledge and the interactions between the users build, as time passes, the 12 Bruckman, A., Emergent Social and Psychological Phenomena in Text-Based Virtual Reality, Working Paper, MIT Media Laboratory,

14 community s knowledge bases. These knowledge bases feed and are fed by users, and are thus dynamic and constantly evolving. 106

15 For effective and rich information exchange to take place, the members of the learning community must perceive the added value of what is exchanged. They must therefore understand that they can be enriched by their complementarity. To have value, members must give and take information in a delicate balance. Virtual communities can be considered successful when they exchange knowledge without ongoing input by an external motivator. This obviously increases both the quality and quality of contributions. Obstacles to contribution may be raised by a lack of understanding concerning how contributions will be used, the absence of feedback, or problems in the contribution process. In general, members are willing to contribute when they perceive the value of what they have received from the others. Thus, as in other types of communities so in virtual ones there are members actively involved in building and sustaining the community, and other more passive members who use the community mainly as a resource. The former account for a small percentage of the total number of members. Yet it does not seem appropriate to penalize those who take information without contributing anything. Often, the same individual performs both roles while belonging to a community. Clark points out: as the community grows, there forms a small group of particularly active individuals. At the same time a large group of lurkers usually grows too. Leaders of online communities must embrace and encourage these active cores to develop, while at the same time letting lurkers lurk SUB-COMMUNITIES One of the main indicators of the successful growth of a community is the presence of subgroups created by the community itself. The task of the organizers is to promote the development of these sub-communities by supplying infrastructures, tools and guidelines. The organizers of communities who have set up newsgroups or discussion forums as the main component of the community s activity often emphasise that users make an end run in these forums: they use them to establish initial contacts but then acquire value added through e- mail. In some cases, listservs, distribution lists and the like have become the core of a community, while the discussion forums are populated by users with scant knowledge/expertise. 9. CODES OF BEHAVIOUR Disputes break out in all communities. But conflicts and controversies are not necessarily harmful. On the contrary, if they are handled well they make the community lively and interesting, and they stimulate the emergence of a shared culture. However, it is necessary to ensure that these clashes do not degenerate to the point that the climate of the community deteriorates. For this purpose it is essential to define criteria and rules, and to encourage the staff to enforce these standards. 13 Clark C., Let your Online Learning Community Grow, Working Paper, San Diego State University, Department of Educational Technology, May,

16 However, virtual communities have a number of features different from those of traditional organisations, so that excessive control over them may be damaging and counter-productive. Social interaction and exchanges not directly geared to business are a fundamental part of every virtual community. Only a very small part of them do not have social or ludic components, while the majority explicitly encourage interaction, which they regard as essential for building and enriching the sense of belonging to the community. Rules and guidelines are nevertheless necessary, and practically all the virtual communities studied have them. In around half the cases, rules are implicit rather than explicit. A frequently cited source of implicit rules in virtual communities are the standards of conduct that apply in the reference organisations or professional groups. 10. THE PROMOTION OF RECURRING EVENTS Repeated events are essential because they create an atmosphere of familiarity and a sense of the passage of time. One significant event is the periodic polling of the community. Some communities ask one or more simple but important questions (which their members can easily answer) and then post the results. Doing this on a weekly or monthly basis gradually develops a sense of shared identity. 11. INTEGRATION WITH THE REAL WORLD It is extremely important to integrate the on-line community with the traditions and rituals of the real world. Reflecting the changing seasons, celebrating important birthdays lay the basis for the growth of an on-line culture. Consequently, it is essential to be acquainted with the traditions and events important to the members of the community. It is often useful to go outside the on-line space to arouse interest and promote participation. The majority of the managers of virtual communities state that they have used various types of events to increase traffic and participation in the community: meetings with experts (online and otherwise), guided visits, promotional tours, celebrations, on-line discussion forums (as preparation for an event or as a continuation of one). The themes related to the integration between virtual communities and the real world, the necessity to complete the online experience with face to face interactions are examined in particular in the sixth chapter Social Dialogue as Learning. CONCLUSIONS This paper has sought to provide a definition of a virtual community. It has chosen a rather broad definition that encompasses various forms of on-line aggregation. A similarly broad definition was given to virtual learning communities: groups of individuals who cooperate online to exchange and acquire new knowledge and expertise. It was then emphasised that every form of virtual community comprises two dimensions: a participative one, and an informative one. In order to foster learning, the right balance must be struck between these two dimensions. 108

17 The paper then surveyed some aspects deemed vital by the literature for the success of a virtual learning community, viz.: letting the members expand the community according to their interests and needs; keeping the size of the community under control: if successful learning is to take place, the group should be neither too large nor too small; enhancing the profiles of its members to foster a sense of belonging, which in its turn facilitates information exchange; using the energies of persons who assume informal roles to support and promote the community as a whole; encouraging communication among members, because the more the communication, the more the feedback and the greater the exchange of experience and expertise; promoting recurrent events tied to the real world, because these transmit a sense of familiarity and the passage of time. BIBLIOGRAPHY AAVV, Beyond the Internet: Exploring the Business Potential of Virtual Words, Working Paper, INSEAD, AAVV, Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Conference Proceedings, Los Angeles, April, AAVV, Attributes of Professional Learning Communities, Working Paper, Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, Austin, Amy Jo Kim, Secrets of Successful Web Communities (9 Timeless Design Principles for Community-Building), Web Techniques Magazine, January Angehrn A., Leveraging Emerging Technologies in Management Education: research and Experiences, European Management Journal, vol. 15, n. 3, Armstrong A.G., Hagel J., The real Value of on-line Communities, Harvard Business Review, May-June, Armstrong A.G., Hagel J., Netgain Expanding Markets through Virtual Communities, Harvard Business School Press, Boston, Brown John, Duguid Paul, Organisational Learning and Communities-of-Practice: toward a Unified View of Working, Learning, and Innovation Organisation Science, vol. 2, n. 1, Bruckman A., Emergent Social and Psychological Phenomena in text-based Virtual Reality, Working Paper, MIT Media Laboratory, Carver Carol, Building a Virtual Community for Students at an Urban University, Paper presented at the First International Conference on Virtual Communities, Bath, June, Ciborra Claudio, Lanzara Giovanni, Designing Dynamic Artifacts: Computer Systems as Formative Contexts in Gagliardi Pasquale (ed.), Symbols and Artifacts: View of the Corporate Landscape, de Gruyter, Clark C., Let your Online Learning Community Grow, Working Paper, San Diego State University, Department of Educational Technology, May,

18 Clodius Jen, Computer-Mediated Interaction, Paper presented at MUDshop II, San Diego, September, Clodius Jen, Creating a Community of Interest (Self and other on DragonMud), Paper presented at the Combined Conference on MUDs, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, January, Cothrel Joseph, Williams Ruth L., Online Communities: helping them form and grow, Journal of Knowledge Management, vol.3, n.1, Fernback Jan, Thompson Brad, Virtual Communities: Abort, Retry, Failure?, Paper presented at the annual convention of the International Communication Association, Albuquerque, New Mexico, May, Figallo Cliff, Hosting, Web Communities: Building Relationship, Increasing Customer Loyalty and Maintaining a Competitive Edge, John Wiley & Sons, Glaser Mark, Building on-line Communities, New Media, March, Gordin D., Gomez L., Using the World Wide Web to build Learning Communities, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, vol. 2, issue 3, Jones Mark, Research Issues in the Design of on-line Communities, Center for Strategic Technology Research, Andersen Consulting, Paper presented at CHI 99. Kollock Peter, Design Principles for online Communities, Working Paper, Department of Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles, Kollock Peter, The Economies of on-line Cooperation: Gift and Public Goods in Cyberspace, Working Paper, Department of Sociology, University of California, Los Angeles, Micelli S., Comunità virtuali di consumatori, Economia e Management, n. 2, marzo, Rasmussen G., Skinner E., Integrated Learning Communities, Working Paper, Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction, Reich Emily, Virtual Community: an Annotated Bibliography, Term Paper online, 1995 Rheingold H., Virtual Communities, Sperling & Kupfer, Milano, Stefik Mark, Internet Dreams (Archetypes, Myths and Metaphors), The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Steuer Jonathan, Tools for Building a Web Community, Web Techniques Magazine, January, Stewart B., Harkins A., Grochowski J., Virtual Learning Communities, Paper prepared for The World Future Society Conference, Washington D.C., Suler John, Making Virtual Communities Work, Working Paper, Rider University, Walther Joseph, Relation Aspects of Computer-mediated Communication: Experimental Observation over Time, Organisation Science, vol. 6, n. 2,

19 Employee s Participation on the Strategic Level Learning Organisations and Networks Morten Norking & Leif Rasmussen Copenhagen Business School - Denmark - ABSTRACT Employee Participation at the Strategic Level in Organisations is analyzed from a theoretical and historical point of view. History and theories lead to a need for a theory and practice on Employee Participation in creating Learning Organisations and NetWorks. This article reports on two experiments with Employee Participation in creating Learning Organisations and NetWorks performed in a cooperation between the Danish Labor Union (LO) and Copenhagen Business School. One of these experiments are performed with 26 shop-stewards in a traditional learning environment over 1 1/2 year from 1997 to The other experiment is performed in a virtual learning environment over 1 1/2 year from 1998 to 2000, also with 26 shop-stewards. In both experiments the shop-stewards represents the major labor unions in Denmark and they are employed in both public institutions and private companies in Denmark. The results of the first experiment and a half-way evaluation report of the second experiment will be reported. The major results so far being: (1) Work and Learning Life must be in accordance with Private and Social Life in order to create a Learning Organisation and a Learning NetWork (2) NetWork creation and functioning must be envisioned as a self-organising process (3) NetWork creation and functioning outside the their normal working environment is of paramount importance for shop-stewards in order to obtain co-determination at the strategic level (4) Group visions must be developed before strategic decision processes and strategic projects can be designed in organisations THEORETICAL BACKGROUND During the past 40 years we have seen a lot of strategic thinking theories and practices in organizaions. These theories and practices have developed in a top-down approach either by academics, consultants and/or top-management. Most of them are based on a rational view of the world and organisational behavior whether they are technologically or economically founded, whether they are descriptive or normative. They have many names and many so-called new concepts and ideas have been introduced in what also seem to be regularly cycles of 3-7 years (e.g., Strategic Operations Research, Strategic Planning, Management by Objectives, Business Processing Reengineering, Management Information Systems, Information Resources Management, Competitive Advantage, Total Quality Management, Organisational Culture, Human Resources Management, Intellectual Capital, Management Accounting, Knowledge Based Organisation, Learning Organisation, Value Based Management, Ethics in Business etc.). 111

20 The tendency has also been towards some kind of worker and union participation - at least at what might be called the tactical and operational. At the strategic level the employees participation has been limited to participation (often silent) through a few elected members (often silent) of a corporate board, work councils and via the regularly negotiations on employment, wages, work time, vacation, work environment, worker participation, role of shop-stewards, education, leave opportunities, etc. The debate on The social Dimension, The Social Dialogue and The Fifth Framework Program on Research and Development in The European Union is an excellent example of these tendencies towards a participatory approach. PRACTICAL BACKGROUND Corporations and work-places changes at an ever increasing pace. Corporations become more and more complex. Globalization in all corners of the world with more and more world wide tuffand competition. More and more strategic alliances across nations. Multinationals. More and more pressure for better products, better services, better production processes, more efficient work-procedures. Political Consumers and Ethics in Business. etc. We all know these tendencies and we are all familiar with the implications: more and more flexibility, mobility and adaptability is called for. Life long Learning and readiness for change are requirements imposed on both management, workers and organisations. New competencies, responsibilities and plights are put forward in order to secure survival, turnover, earnings, development and well-being of the corporation, its employees and managers/owners. The key words is either total automatization and/or co-operation between workers and managers/owners (and their representatives) at the strategic level and through Social Dialogue at the work place. HYPOTHESIS FOR EMPLOYEE PARTICIPATION In sum it is hypothesis that there is a need for re-designing the well-fare state a need for re-designing the social dimension and the social dialogue at the work-places a need for re-designing strategic thinking and strategic co-operation in organisation a need for a new language in management and organisation As is said in Sweden: The first floor of Folkehjemmet has been achieved and built. Now we have to build the second floor. One is reminded of Abraham Maslow s wording in Eupsychian Management 14 : To think of pay in terms of money alone is clearly obsolete in such a framework. It is true that the lower need gratifications can be bought with money - but when these are already fulfilled, then people are motivated by only higher kinds of pay, e.g. belongingness, 14 Cited from Maslow: the farther Reaches of Human Nature, Pelican Books, 1973, p

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