A community of practice or a working psychological group? Group dynamics in core and peripheral community participation

David E. Gray, Yiannis Gabriel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)


The concept of communities of practice has become increasingly influential in management literature. Yet, many scholars regard the term as too homogeneous and lacking in empirical support. Our study explores the Silver Academy, a project involving over 100 unemployed and self-employed managers over the age of 50, who came together with the purpose of sharing knowledge and experience in starting up their own businesses. The study shows how the Academy matches the notion of community of practice, including mutual relationships, shared engagement and a common consensus of membership. However, applying Bion’s theory of groups, we challenge the homogeneous and consensual notion of a community of practice, illustrating how, through unconscious group processes, some group members exhibit work-group mentality and the capacity for realistic hard work (and leadership), while others are caught in a basic-assumption mentality, prone to feelings of anxiety, guilt and depression. This is particularly so for a group that has gone through the recent trauma of unemployment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)395-412
Number of pages18
JournalManagement Learning
Issue number4
Early online date25 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2018



  • Bion
  • communities of practice
  • CoPs
  • group conflict
  • group dynamics
  • group psychodynamics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation

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