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A network of practice is a type of social network designed to allow business professionals to share information that in turn aids in increasing their efficiency in carrying out the tasks related to their specific positions or careers. The idea behind this type of network is to create a virtual community of practice that makes it possible to establish ongoing relationships that allow for the constant exchange of data, which in turn aids all the network participants in advancing in their chosen professions. The exact nature of a network of practice will vary, based on the type of business professionals involved with the community and the range of information that is shared throughout that community.
For the most part, a network of practice is thought of as a social network that exists in a virtual environment and caters to individuals involved in a specific type of business or profession. In some cases, the network may be somewhat broad, allowing for interaction among individuals who labor in several different areas of an industry. This means that a network of practice focused on the telecommunications industry may promote the free exchange of data among professionals who specialize in long distance solutions, the creation of internal networks, local and regional voice and data carriers, and teleconference professionals.
At other times, a network of practice may be more focused on a subset within a particular industry, an approach that tends to make the information shared a little narrower in scope. Rather than creating a virtual community that is for nurses in general, the social network may focus specifically on nurse practitioners or travel nurses. This approach makes it possible for healthcare professionals who are involved with a specific type of nursing to share data with one another in a community setting that is informative, supportive, and focused on their particular needs and interests.
There is no one right way to structure a network of practice. Other than establishing the foundational reason for the existence of the network, it is possible to allow the network to evolve in any manner desired by the participants within the community. Over time, this means the scope of the network may either become more specific, or diversify in response to the needs of the group members. As long as the network of practice is promoting organizational learning that is relevant to the individuals who participate in the community, it can be said that the network of practice is successful.