"The most distinctive, valuable knowledge in organisations is difficult or impossible to codify and is tightly associated with a professional person's identity. Developing and disseminating such knowledge depends on informal learning much more than formal - on conversation, storytelling, mentorships, and lessons learned through experience. This informal learning, in turn, depends on collegial relationships with those you trust and who are willing to help when you ask. Informal learning activities amd personal relationships among colleagues are the hallmark of communities of practice. Hence, we see an increasing focus on informal community structures whose aggregate purpose is to steward the learning of an organisation and its invaluable knowledge assets."
William Snyder and Etienne Wenger 2004, 'Our world as a learning system: A communities-of-practice approach' in Conner, ML and Clawson, JG (eds), Creating a Learning Culture: Strategy, Technology and Practice, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp35-58.
While the above quote focuses on informailty and relationships, I see another aspect to this. There seems to be a fundamental tension between the trend toward executive leadership by a few and the goals of forming 'reflective practicioners' and reflective communities of practice. The more that discussion about the critical challenges of life and faith are removed from the life of a community, not only is the capacity to learn together from experience undeveloped, but the personal and interpersonal practices and disciplines that might make such learning and discernment possible lose their power and purpose. The less that a synod or presbytery meeting or a church council is allowed to have deep and ongoing conversation about those things that matter most (and instead 'rubber stamp' the thinking done by a few people), the less the whole group is able to function as a self-transforming entity. Not only is an unhealthy trust and dependence built, those who see the dichotomy are likely to withdraw their participation, thereby depriving the whole of their own critically reflective capacities.
In this regard there is a fundamental problem in the notion of church councils dealing with a lot of busniess efficiently. Might we instead choose wisely about which few issues we will wrestle with deeply and prayerfully over time. Let us choose to frame our gatherings around ongoing conversations about those things that are most critical to our life and mission, and thereby build our capacity as a community of faith to make learning and discernment part of our lives.