1.0 way to significantly reduce the gap between knowledge

1.0
Introduction

In what is widely known as the “information
spectrum”, 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 ones
like land, labour, and capital. Therefore, knowledge needs to be managed if it
is going to yield the required results. There are a lot of definitions of
knowledge management as every writer tries to mould one that fits her/his
domain of operation. According to King (2009), a very simple definition “for
knowledge management could be “the planning, organizing, motivating, and
controlling of people, processes and systems in the organization to ensure that
its knowledge-related assets are improved and effectively employed”.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!


order now

Knowledge
transfer is a major concern in improving educational practices (Huberman, 2004). Actually, even if
new information and communication technologies have made it much easier for
practitioners to access research results, there is still a large gap between
the knowledge produced by research providers and the one used in practice. Anderson
(1992) attributes the reasons for this gap mainly to researchers who often
allow much more interest, time, and effort to the production of new knowledge
than to the dissemination of their research results. This then turns into a
major barrier to the diffusion of research results to managers, policy-makers
and practitioners. For other authors, the reasons of this gap are attributed to
practitioners. Hence, the resistance of practitioners to adopt new knowledge
(Kirst 2000) and their often limited competencies and skills (Hemsley-Brown and
Oplatka 2005) are some of the main handicaps for the appropriation and
application of research results. Whether the weakness is on the research side
or the practice one, it’s largely admitted that knowledge transfer between
researchers and practitioners should be further encouraged and promoted since
it represents the only viable way to significantly reduce the gap between
knowledge creation and knowledge use.

 

In the context of educational institutions, Kidwell
et al. (2000) state that knowledge management promises better services to
stakeholders, reduced costs, shorter development cycle for products like
curriculum and research, and an overall improvement in performance. In their
widely cited work, “The knowledge-creating company”, Nonaka and
Takeuchi (1995) propose a knowledge cycle with four stages. Initially, an
individual makes her own discovery at a personal level. When the personal
knowledge is made explicit, it will become in the community domain. At the third
stage, people will blend and reuse knowledge gained from the community
knowledge space and create new knowledge. At the closing loop of the cycle, we
return back to the point where the individual makes her own investigations or
research to solve “personal”/unique problems.

Based on a similar “knowledge cycle”, Huisman
and Wit (2003), identified three types of knowledge transferring.

Ø  Knowledge
retrieval: Knowledge is transferred from the organization to the individual.

Ø  Knowledge
exchange: Knowledge is transferred from an individual to other individuals.

Ø 
Knowledge creation: Knowledge is transferred
among individuals.

Accordingly,
Conway and Sligar (2002) claim that knowledge is in one of the four spaces or
frames: individual, community, corporate, or public. Individuals and
organizations do, therefore, have roles to facilitate the creation, transfer,
and regeneration of knowledge. One can also empirically suggest the barriers
for knowledge transferring. In a case study done in Malaysia, Jain et al. (2007)
identify rewards, availability of time, organizational effort, organizational
culture, and lack of interaction as the five most important barriers for
knowledge transfer. In some other researches individual, organizational, and
technological factors are identified as the three most important categories of
issues influencing the success or failure of knowledge sharing in
organizations. Alhammad et al. (2009), in their study of knowledge transfer in
Jordanian Universities, concluded that “academic staff have fewer mutual
relationships, team working opportunities, intentions and motivations to share
their knowledge”. What is more, while there is no difference in the
knowledge sharing habits of females and males, younger staff are not motivated
to be “creative”.

Cheng
et al. (2009) made a report of a case study research on the knowledge sharing
practices of staff in the Multimedia University of Malaysia (MMU). In MMU,
there is a formal requirement that all academic staff have to share their
research (even if it is an abstract) at least once a year on a system called
ShareNet. Most of the respondents however had some misgivings about this
imposition and said that they would not have used it had it not been required
by the management. The researchers concluded that people-orientation should
take primacy over technological orientation in creating an environment of
knowledge sharing. Monetary and non-monetary incentives, and “personal
expectations” like developing one’s own knowledge and being recognized as
‘selfless by sharing’, were found to be the two most important factors in the
decision of staff whether to share or not.

Although
one observes that knowledge transferring is becoming important in higher
learning institutions to support the teaching learning process and research
activities, this does not seem to be successfully implemented in Ethiopian
higher learning institutions.  It was
therefore found important to initiate a study on knowledge sharing
practices.  The study presented in this
paper is the first step in an ongoing research work to assess existing level of
staff awareness and practice of knowledge sharing among higher learning
institutions in Ethiopia as well as the level of organizational and
infrastructural support for knowledge sharing.