This paper uses the ‘communities of practice’ and
‘situated learning’ (Lave & Wenger 1991, Wenger,
1998) approach to understand knowledge building
in transnational collaborations in ICT development.
It is based on around 70 interviews in two
companies where offshoring of qualifi ed IT work
from Sweden to India is done in virtual teams. The
aim was to see whether the communities of practice
approach can be applicable to work which
transcends the limitations of distance and engages
employees with vastly different cultural and
educational backgrounds, such as in Sweden and
India. A basic prerequisite is an aim to create a community
consisting of both Swedish and Indian employees, for
example expressed by the transnational team having
one team leader, responsible for both offshore and
onsite employees. However, a community of practice
cannot be created, but needs to evolve, and learning
only happens when the old-timers accept the newcomers
as members of the community, peripheral in the
beginning but on a trajectory to become full members.
In offshoring relations this is often disturbed by the resistance
of the onshore employees to offshoring as a
phenomenon. Prejudices about foreign cultures may
play a part as well as detecting that the cultural and
educational differences actually are large.
The life of the community of practice evolves
through two processes: participation and reifi cation.
Participation refers to interaction with one’s colleagues,
and in ordinary teams it is affected by who is
included in and excluded from different interactions.
In virtual teams, access to and use of communication
technology is crucial for enabling the participation of
all members of the team. Language problems can obstruct
participation in Swedish-Indian virtual teams.
The concept participation also covers the everyday
talk that establishes the members as not only carriers
of professional knowledge but also human beings for
each other. Giving space to this kind of talk is essential
for situated learning in virtual teams.
Reifi cation refers to codifying the life of the community
in artifacts, often in documents - in IT work the
products and all the documentation around them, as
well as other documents which concern the life of the
community. Documentation plays different roles in
Swedish and Indian IT organizations, and this complicates
the creation of a community of practice and
However, with evidence from different teams, the results
of the study show that these obstacles can be,
if not removed, at least moved to different degrees.
When this happens, the Indian newcomers not only
learn about the technology, but different kinds of organizational
learning also takes place. The paper discusses
the possibilities and limitations of the situated
learning approach to study learning in transnational
WORK - Continuities and Disruptions in Modern Life, 21 - 23 August 2013, Turku, Finland