Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Article Note: On information sharing and workplace learning

Citation for the article:

Beitler, Michael A. and Lars W. Mitlacher. "Information Sharing, Self-directed Learning and its Implications for Workplace Learning." Journal of Workplace Learning 19.8 (2007): 526-536.

Read via Emerald.

This is a brief article that basically looks at how the concept of self-directed learning readiness (SDLR) relates to behaviors of information sharing. This may be something to look at in the library workplace as well. This is a pretty brief article, and after the method and results are explained, the findings are pretty brief. So I am just going to make some brief notes.

  • The article cites a definition of self-directed learning by Knowles. "Knowles defines SDL as a process in which 'individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies and evaluating learning outcomes' (Knowles, 1990)" (525-527).*
  • "Empirical studies show that individuals who have developed high self-directed learning skills tend to perform better in jobs requiring high degrees of problem solving ability, creativity, and change (Mitlacher 2005)" (527).
  • "On the other hand, research findings about the effect of information technology on group information sharing behaviour are mixed" (528). In other words, the jury is still out. Some say that technology makes information sharing better. Others say it may actually keep people from sharing. This may be something to think about in terms of using tools like wikis and blogs for internal knowledge management. I am not saying not to use the tools, but I am saying the tools are not necessarily the silver bullet.
  • "In addition, information sharing also depends on a person's willingness to pass information on to others. Despite the growing importance of information sharing, it remains a challenge in the workplace" (528).
  • The author also mentions that various studies point out that "companies are faced with the problem of employees unwilling to share information in the workplace hindering an effective knowledge management system" (528). I do wonder how often it is the management that fails to share information thus hindering the process. This works both ways.
  • "Companies that are more effective at sharing information have a greater likelihood of organizational survival and higher levels of productivity" (529).
  • "In both classroom asl well as company settings it will be important to encourage people to increase the sharing of information, in particular for people with lower SDLR scores as they tend to share less information than people with high SDLR scores" (533).
  • "Additionally, while the knowledge acquired in seminar programs is still important to the individual, from an organizational point of view it will be crucial that this information is shared among employees to foster workplace-related learning. Thus the most successful companies will not be those whose individuals learn best but those whose employees are able and ready to share their acquired knowledge and information with their colleagues and subordinates" (534).
I think we have a good statement there for the need to have good workers who not only can learn but who can share what they learn with others. I am not totally sure why this is making me think. I know that we often speak in our profession of the need for librarians to be lifelong learners. There are good examples out there of librarians who are knowledgeable and generous with that knowledge, and yet there are many bad examples of those who stagnate and become deadwood. Anyways, just a thought.

*Note: Knowles reference refers to the following:

Knowles, M.S. (1990), The Adult Learner: A Neglected Species, Gulf Publishing, Houston, TX.

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