1.0IntroductionIn what is widely known as the “informationspectrum”, knowledge is information applied with experience and judgement.
In this so-called knowledge age, knowledge is considered as the most critical”means of production”, even more critical than the traditional oneslike land, labour, and capital. Therefore, knowledge needs to be managed if itis going to yield the required results. There are a lot of definitions ofknowledge management as every writer tries to mould one that fits her/hisdomain of operation. According to King (2009), a very simple definition “forknowledge management could be “the planning, organizing, motivating, andcontrolling of people, processes and systems in the organization to ensure thatits knowledge-related assets are improved and effectively employed”.Knowledgetransfer is a major concern in improving educational practices (Huberman, 2004). Actually, even ifnew information and communication technologies have made it much easier forpractitioners to access research results, there is still a large gap betweenthe knowledge produced by research providers and the one used in practice. Anderson(1992) attributes the reasons for this gap mainly to researchers who oftenallow much more interest, time, and effort to the production of new knowledgethan to the dissemination of their research results.
This then turns into amajor barrier to the diffusion of research results to managers, policy-makersand practitioners. For other authors, the reasons of this gap are attributed topractitioners. Hence, the resistance of practitioners to adopt new knowledge(Kirst 2000) and their often limited competencies and skills (Hemsley-Brown andOplatka 2005) are some of the main handicaps for the appropriation andapplication of research results. Whether the weakness is on the research sideor the practice one, it’s largely admitted that knowledge transfer betweenresearchers and practitioners should be further encouraged and promoted sinceit represents the only viable way to significantly reduce the gap betweenknowledge creation and knowledge use.
In the context of educational institutions, Kidwellet al. (2000) state that knowledge management promises better services tostakeholders, reduced costs, shorter development cycle for products likecurriculum and research, and an overall improvement in performance. In theirwidely cited work, “The knowledge-creating company”, Nonaka andTakeuchi (1995) propose a knowledge cycle with four stages. Initially, anindividual makes her own discovery at a personal level. When the personalknowledge is made explicit, it will become in the community domain. At the thirdstage, people will blend and reuse knowledge gained from the communityknowledge space and create new knowledge.
At the closing loop of the cycle, wereturn back to the point where the individual makes her own investigations orresearch to solve “personal”/unique problems.Based on a similar “knowledge cycle”, Huismanand Wit (2003), identified three types of knowledge transferring.Ø Knowledgeretrieval: Knowledge is transferred from the organization to the individual.Ø Knowledgeexchange: Knowledge is transferred from an individual to other individuals.Ø Knowledge creation: Knowledge is transferredamong individuals.
Accordingly,Conway and Sligar (2002) claim that knowledge is in one of the four spaces orframes: individual, community, corporate, or public. Individuals andorganizations do, therefore, have roles to facilitate the creation, transfer,and regeneration of knowledge. One can also empirically suggest the barriersfor knowledge transferring.
In a case study done in Malaysia, Jain et al. (2007)identify rewards, availability of time, organizational effort, organizationalculture, and lack of interaction as the five most important barriers forknowledge transfer. In some other researches individual, organizational, andtechnological factors are identified as the three most important categories ofissues influencing the success or failure of knowledge sharing inorganizations. Alhammad et al. (2009), in their study of knowledge transfer inJordanian Universities, concluded that “academic staff have fewer mutualrelationships, team working opportunities, intentions and motivations to sharetheir knowledge”. What is more, while there is no difference in theknowledge sharing habits of females and males, younger staff are not motivatedto be “creative”.
Chenget al. (2009) made a report of a case study research on the knowledge sharingpractices of staff in the Multimedia University of Malaysia (MMU). In MMU,there is a formal requirement that all academic staff have to share theirresearch (even if it is an abstract) at least once a year on a system calledShareNet.
Most of the respondents however had some misgivings about thisimposition and said that they would not have used it had it not been requiredby the management. The researchers concluded that people-orientation shouldtake primacy over technological orientation in creating an environment ofknowledge sharing. Monetary and non-monetary incentives, and “personalexpectations” like developing one’s own knowledge and being recognized as’selfless by sharing’, were found to be the two most important factors in thedecision of staff whether to share or not. Althoughone observes that knowledge transferring is becoming important in higherlearning institutions to support the teaching learning process and researchactivities, this does not seem to be successfully implemented in Ethiopianhigher learning institutions. It wastherefore found important to initiate a study on knowledge sharingpractices. The study presented in thispaper is the first step in an ongoing research work to assess existing level ofstaff awareness and practice of knowledge sharing among higher learninginstitutions in Ethiopia as well as the level of organizational andinfrastructural support for knowledge sharing.