Architects’ landscapes of practice

Architects’ landscapes of practice

As enterprise architects, we work with many different stakeholders and with many different themes and issues. The enterprise architecture body of knowledge is huge and diverse.

The body of knowledge of a profession is not the pile of dominant books and standards of said profession but should rather be understood as a ‘landscape of practice’ consisting of a complex system of communities of practice and the boundaries between them. The metaphor of a landscape of practice was first introduced by Etienne Wenger in his iconic book Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity from 1998, and it provides a broad social perspective on professional learning, and learning more generally.

To account for the complex relations that people build across the landscape, Etienne introduced the concept of knowledgeability. Whereas competence describes the dimension of knowing negotiated and defined within a single community of practice, knowledgeability manifests in a person’s relations to a multiplicity of practices across the landscape.

Valuable lesson

Etienne taught me that as practitioners, we cannot be competent in all the practices in a landscape, but we can still be knowledgeable about them, their relevance to our practice, and thus our location in the broader landscape. When considering an entire landscape, claims to knowledgeability are an important aspect of learning as a social process. Also, if a body of knowledge is a landscape of practice, then our personal experience of learning can be thought of as a journey through this landscape. Reflecting on our own trajectories as learners, most of us will be amazed at how many practices we have engaged in, dabbled in, visited, encountered, or avoided over the years. 

As a trajectory through a social landscape, learning is not merely the acquisition of knowledge. It is the becoming of a person who inhabits the landscape with an identity whose dynamic construction reflects our trajectory through that landscape. This journey within and across practices shapes who we are, our identities. Over time it accumulates memories, competencies, key formative events, stories, and relationships to people and places. It also provides material for directions, aspirations, and projected images of ourselves that guide the shaping of our trajectory going forward.

Through our certification and consulting engagements, our clients invite us to convene parts of their continued journeys. We are grateful for this.

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