The concept of communities of practice has generated considerable debate among scholars of management. Attention has shifted from a concern with the transmission and reproduction of knowledge towards their utility for enhancing innovative potential. Questions of governance, power, collaboration and control have all entered the debate with different theorizations emerging from a wide mix of empirical research. We appraise these key findings through a critical review of the literature. From a divergent range of findings, we identify four main ways in which communities of practice enable and constrain innovative capabilities as (a) enablers of learning for innovation, (b) situated platforms for professional occupations, (c) dispersed collaborative environments and (d) governance structures designed for purpose. Our conclusion signals the way forward for further research that could be used to improve our understanding of different contextual forms and how they may align with organizations in enabling rather than constraining innovative capabilities.