Learning lessons about knowledge sharing

Over the past 3 years I’ve been studying how groups of health and social care staff share knowledge with one another. My work has been funded by a National Institute for Health Research ‘Knowledge Mobilisation Research Fellowship’ which provides an opportunity for a unique blend of knowledge mobilisation research and practical, useful activity.

As with all good research projects, mine started with a literature review. I wanted to see what others had found and written about knowledge sharing in inter-professional teams. As I waded through the literature (picking up one or two insights as I went), I was struck by the impenetrability of much of what I read. While this isn’t necessarily unusual or a problem for us academics, it made me mindful of the need to make sure that I produced research outputs which were insightful, engaging and, above all, useful, especially for the teams I was working with.

Fast forward 12 months, and you find me working collaboratively with health and social care staff and other researchers to analyse observational and focus group data using a creative hermeneutic approach. You can read a previous blog post about the approach here and some of my reflections on using it here. Fast forward another month or so and you find me using materials from the workshop to produce a series of stories about knowledge sharing (trickier than it first seemed, as I discuss here!)

So far, so good. I’ve collected observational data, analysed it using a collaborative process and produced some stories about knowledge sharing. The stories look good, seem to make sense to the teams I’m working with and have been relatively well-received. I repeat the process, working with more teams and producing more stories. It’s all very ‘knowledge mobilisation’ and I’m beginning to feel that I’ve produced outputs which are insightful, engaging and useful.

Fast forward one last time to a couple of months ago, and the penultimate advisory group meeting of the project. As we talk about the stories, one or two of my advisors start asking what they are actually for. As they quiz me it quickly becomes apparent that even though the stories are engaging and contain a number of insights about how people share knowledge, they simply don’t pass the ‘useful’ test. Together we work out that one of the reasons is that the lessons that I’m trying to impart through the stories are too hidden. They are obvious to me, but not necessarily to anyone else who is reading them (which rather neatly encapsulates the research problem I’ve been trying to study!!)

Thanks to that meeting and the wise words of my advisors, I’ve now reworked all of the stories to really draw out what they can teach us about how groups of people share knowledge with each other. These lessons include the importance of admitting unease, uncertainty and concern, reflecting on and making connections between past experiences and cultivating curiosity and interest, all of which can help groups of people to share knowledge. These lessons (which are based on a combination of analytical and theoretical insights) have now been highlighted much more clearly in each of the stories, which you can read and download here. I hope that you find them insightful, engaging and, above all, useful. And I hope that my story has helped us all to remember the importance of continually asking ‘what is this output for?’ and ‘is it useful?’

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