Notes from the Lab: What Matters in Knowledge Sharing?
// Chef Blog
Hello again! I mentioned in my intro blog that, before coming to Chef, I was an academic, and I am actively researching the ways tech professionals choose and use technology. A large part of that effort is writing and publishing peer-review research. Occasionally, when something I've written is published that's cool and relevant to our community, I'd like to share it with you. This is one of those times!
A paper I coauthored with Xuequn (Alex) Wang and Paul Clay was recently published in the Journal of Knowledge Management. It is titled "Encouraging knowledge contribution in IT support: social context and the differential effects of motivation type." It takes a look at one piece of knowledge management (KM) – knowledge contribution – among sysadmins.
It can be tough to get people to contribute to a knowledge management system (KMS), especially when they are incredibly busy and overworked, To see what encourages people to contribute, we took a look at two kinds of social support (coworkers and supervisors), two kinds of motivation commonly seen in work environments (intrinsic and external), and two ways to contribute information that we tend to see in tech (ticketing systems and separate tasks, like contributing documents to a wiki or traditional KMS).
I'd like to make one quick note here: I realize that KM is a much, much bigger issue, but tackling problems in research often means addressing them one small piece at a time.
You can read the whole paper if you'd like (I've provided the citation and link), but here are some highlights:
- Supervisors positively impact intrinsic motivation to contribute knowledge.
- So what? Culture matters. Grassroots is good, but leadership and supportive management matter.
- Intrinsic motivation positively impacts the contribution of knowledge when making that contribution is challenging and takes a lot of effort. External motivations (like money) negatively impact the contribution of knowledge.
- So what? We need to care about the work that we do. If companies try to put a price tag on really difficult things it can take the joy out of it, and can even backfire. Yes, pay us competitive salaries. But piecework bonuses for really difficult things make us sad pandas and we might just stop doing them if they aren't a core part of what we do.
- External motivation positively impacts the contribution of knowledge when making that contribution is boring. Intrinsic motivation doesn't impact the contribution of mundane knowledge.
- So what? You can cheerlead all you want, but it's probably going to be a hard sell to keep convincing someone to write up process documents. It can happen, but it's tough. If you really want to grease those wheels, show us the money.
Wang, X., Clay, P. F., & Forsgren, N. (2015). Encouraging knowledge contribution in IT support: social context and the differential effects of motivation type. Journal of Knowledge Management, 19(2), 315-333.
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