Archive for the ‘knowledge mobilisation’ Category

Something that is pre-occupying all universities at present is impact. Does the knowledge which academics generate in their research translate into something valuable for society? It’s a worthy challenge to evaluate whether public money is being spent wisely. For universities it can have a significant impact on their future, because some portion of government funding will be allocated based on each institutions ability to demonstrate that they have invested previous research money wisely and produced ideas that are useful and worthwhile.
Of course, in the KM world we know that judging the contribution of knowledge is fraught with difficulty. For example, a finding in some scientific domain, maybe maths, or physics may contribute to thinking, but ultimately has to be combined with other findings and the process of translating it into a commercially useful invention may longer than the period in which the assessment. There’s issues of conversion from lab to commercial product. I used to work for Porton International, a biotech company with the rights to commercialise research from Porton Down. The company faced enormous difficulties because the protocols for research development may have been different to those required to commercialise the results. In addition the interests and motivations of the researchers were totally different to those of a business. And that is in a science subject where the findings are evidence based and related to physical or biological phenomena. If you turn your attention to research in business and management and more particularly knowledge management, . As a domain of practice, Knowledge Management (KM) is fragmented, cross disciplinary, diffuse in impact and highly context specific. One size does not fit all. So how can you isolate and evidence the contribution of research in a topic like that.

As Daan Andriessen, someone who has long been studying “Weightless Wealth” value is in the eye of the beholder, and a lot depends on context and timing. The Intellectual Capital world has been trying to come up with metrics to improve judgement about the value of knowledge and still not solved it. The result is an enormous number of mechanisms which all produce an array of different evaluations, depending on why they are used, how they are used and who the end user is.
However, after many hours of careful thought and discussion with all the different knowledge domains in Universities the assessment process is here. So one thing is for sure, we will all need to get better at the knowledge transfer process. Christine’s research project in 2011 had some valuable insights about why it is hard to bridge the gap between different domains of practice, and hence why effective knowledge sharing needs considerable work.

  • It depends on whether people see knowledge as abstract so codification is enough for the transfer or whether it is situational and context specific, so hard to capture and largely transferable only through conversation and person-to-person dialogue.
  • Then there’s the question of how much knowledge is enough? What do you need to know to make a decision and take action? Different domains have different views on what it means to ‘think about things properly’. Are experts giving definitive answers, or are they offering well informed opinion? I was listening to someone in Forensic Scientist Angela Gallop talk about the presentation of evidence to a jury. Often juries see scientific evidence as incontrovertible and definitive but the forensic scientist knows how complex and judgement based it can be.
  • Finally we all have a different view of what ‘evidence’ means, which means we expect different mechanisms for approval and evaluation. This affects how willingly we learn lessons from others. For some the evaluation depends on the credibility of the evidence for other it’s about whether it feels relevant to the current context.

Being in a more subjective and context specific domain, in the KM Forum, we believe in conversation, deepening know-how through practice, experimentation and feedback, and relevance to context are key criteria.

So one tool we use to support knowledge mobilisation, (we don’t expect pure knowledge transfer) is action learning. It’s a way of relating various research outputs to real life business problems, and facilitating peer learning discussions about the application of insights as people are going through the process of formulating problem solving ideas, experimenting with them and refining them through feedback. On the 17th April we will kick off this year’s Action Learning Groups. Two themes emerged as areas our members want to focus. The first is “Changing behaviours, mindsets, motivation, commitment and customer service”, the second “Creating, growing and sustaining connections”. Clearly of the 43 research projects completed in the Forum so far, there will be several that fit into each heading, and it will be interesting to see the challenges which the various delegates set themselves under each heading. I imagine social media will come into the latter, but relationships, partnering and mental connections for creativity and innovation could equally well fit under that heading. As always we will have a meeting in January 2013, where everyone can learn what sort of impact the Action Learning groups have had, and hopefully we’ll also learn more about how the research has translated into useful thinking. Our Action Learning Leaflet will give you a flavour of past projects and the potential value of this approach.


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