KMbeing

Knowledge Mobilization (KMb): Multiple Contributions & Multi-Production Of New Knowledge

Tag Archives: communication

Active Listening As A Knowledge Mobilization Skill

Active Listening

In our office at the Faculty of Graduate Studies at York University listening is one of the most important skills we can have to fully understand the concerns of our graduate students, staff and faculty, while properly supporting them in an academic/research environment. It seems that all of us can become so focused on our work that we can sometimes switch our hearing on and off. It can sometimes be frustrating the number of times some of us interrupt a person speaking before we can actually fully acknowledge what’s being said.

The unfortunate thing is that although we think we may be listening to what’s actually being said, sometimes it’s not always the case.

Several years ago I left a career in the airline industry as a flight attendant to embark on a career in university administration. As an In-Charge Flight Attendant one of the first things I was taught was to listen very carefully. Particularly in the event of any emergency situation, listening skills are crucial for dealing with any safety and security issues to effectively communicate important information to passengers and crew. As my grandmother used to say to me, “you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that order”. Although I learned to use my listening and communication skills daily, in reality – I admit – I sometimes fail to hear everything said to me. We don’t take in completely everything that is being said to us – and this is rather concerning.

Listening continues to be a major part of my day as I now work in a university setting – and rightly should be for anyone in any setting. We use listening to gain understanding, to exchange knowledge, and learn. If the important parts of understanding what is being said to us aren’t understood then it’s a problem. And if we don’t really listen to understand we’re missing out on important and often missed details.

Being an active listener – especially in the field of knowledge mobilization – will do a number of helpful things for you. It will improve the efficiency of your understanding, the clarity of your speaking and knowledge translation, as well as increase the cooperation of people involved in the conversation. You will avoid more misunderstanding, and improve rapport with a number of key players in your knowledge mobilization network – researchers, intermediaries and research users such as policy makers – and of course it will help improve your overall ability to effectively communicate.

To enhance your knowledge mobilization skills, you need to practice active listening. Active listening is making a conscious effort to listen carefully to not only the words being said but the meaning behind what’s being communicated as well. It’s not as easy as it sounds and requires continual practice.

Active listening as a general skill for any person – and as a knowledge mobilization skill for researchers, knowledge brokers, community partners and policy-makers requires all to remain very focused on what is being said by anyone in the research process. We need to pay attention to the stereotypes of power and politics, the marginalization of the often un-listened-to voices, and ideas of elitist knowledge sources – while also being able to form counter-arguments that can lead to the development of new knowledge. The moment we stop concentrating fully on every partner in the knowledge mobilization partnership we’ re no longer actively listening.

Knowledge mobilization is about communicating knowledge (particularly research knowledge) through listening and dialogue – and turning knowledge into action. Part of that action is paying complete attention to all research partners. We need to give each partner within the research process our undivided attention – and continue to acknowledge what is being said to continuously transform our knowledge within society. This also includes looking for all non-verbal communication as well as the words being said. Throughout the research process, the community-engagement process, the knowledge translation and exchange process, and the policy-making process all partners need to continue to show that they are listening – not just passively listening – actively listening. This is very powerful in continuing to develop and convey knowledge.

The other side of listening for better knowledge development is to give feedback. Our job as listeners is to clearly understand what is being said. Our job as knowledge mobilizers is to also check for understanding. We do this by asking questions and reflecting back what we think is being said. We need to ask questions. Researchers are usually very good at this; community-partners are sometimes hesitant to do so due to those ideas of elitist knowledge sources; and policy-makers sometimes forget to ask further questions. One of the easiest ways of asking questions and reflecting back to any speaker is to simply ask “what do you mean when you say…?” or  “ it sounds like what you’re saying is…” Summarize the knowledge you think is being conveyed and get them to correct your understanding if necessary.

Most importantly – don’t interrupt until an exchanged thought is complete. Don’t say things like, “no, no, no, no…” with hand gestures or body-language that summarily dismisses what another person is attempting to communicate. Interrupting is not only rude – it also wastes time and risks frustrating the individuals speaking to you. Such rude interruptions limit the conversation – and hence limit the potential for effective knowledge mobilization.

Included in giving feedback and not interrupting is the ability to make only appropriate responses. Active listening as a knowledge mobilization skill requires respect and accurate understanding. For more on listening and knowledge brokers please see Phipps & Morton (2013). We add nothing to the conversation by arguing inappropriately or attacking a point of view. Taking the time to not interrupt also provides an opportunity to critically think about what’s being said and how best to respond without a knee-jerk reaction.

This doesn’t mean we have to sugar-coat everything thing we say in response. It simply means being open and honest in our responses – while also being respectful in our opinions. We can convey what we mean and exchange our knowledge in a manner that is tactful and diplomatic – not by demeaning or talking-down to someone.

Active listening in everyday life and as a knowledge mobilization skill takes much practice, concentration and determination – but is worth the effort to turn knowledge exchange into an action for greater social benefit.

As a researcher, research partner or policy-maker, if you practice active listening as a knowledge mobilization skill and continue to remind yourself to include this in all of your communication with others, not only will your understanding of others improve – you’ll also be amazed at how much more you actually increase your knowledge to make the world a better place, and isn’t that the point?

Getting Closer To Understanding The Value Of Knowledge Mobilization In Research

Research

One of the more interesting developments within research over the past decade has been the growing interest of incorporating knowledge mobilization strategies into the research process. Historically, when researchers have embarked on their research journeys they’ve typically asked questions with the intention of finding answers mostly focused on expanding our knowledge base – with little consideration for the practical applications of that knowledge and the potential impacts leading to social innovation for the broader community.

Why the growing interest in knowledge mobilization? Because it makes research useful to society – something everyone can relate to in our everyday life experiences. All of us can recall situations when we’ve had a problem with something and have not been able to find a solution through the usual methods of problem solving. We might seek out “expert” knowledge through “expert” research; however, even if we are fortunate enough to find answers, the knowledge may not be applicable to our own situations in a way that addresses our own needs and includes our own knowledge contributions and experiences.

Sometimes questions are not easily resolved without providing content related to our own contexts. Often what people are asking for when they pose questions are conversations with others to “make sense” out of issues by sharing their own knowledge (or lack thereof) and their own contexts. Connecting individuals through knowledge mobilization enables people to share their knowledge, collaborate on problems, and create new knowledge from various perspectives. Beyond simply answering a research question, this type of knowledge exchange allows us to contribute personal experiences and share valuable insights that are often not formally recognized or captured through the historical research process.

Exchanging knowledge in context around a particular research question can be a powerful means of transforming the research process for social benefit. The knowledge collectively gained and inclusively exchanged between community and academia (as one example) can be more valuable to society than simply having a researcher complete a random-sample survey on the general public for the purpose of simply writing a peer-reviewed research paper that remains limited in public access and perhaps only cited as a reference for future papers.

As more universities and research institutions invest in social collaboration and community knowledge exchange many of them have incorporated (or soon will include) actual knowledge mobilization units – with designated knowledge brokers – within the structure of the institution. Research methods that incorporate knowledge mobilization and community-university engagement develop better and more practical knowledge in the long run.

While it seems straightforward that broader knowledge exchange creates greater opportunities for the practical application of research findings, the community-university networking dynamics are also context-specific. Such differences can be better understood if universities/research institutions implement knowledge brokers as part of the research process. Knowledge brokers work with a number of different people: researchers (both community-based and university-based), community organizers, business leaders and entrepreneurs, funders (both private and public) along with institutional and government policy makers. Knowledge brokers facilitate the multi-directional flows of communication in a structured way. However, there are some who still question the need for knowledge brokers.

A comment on one of my recent KMbeing blog posts by Senior Researcher Sharon Mickan from the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine at the University of Oxford states:

“I would also see knowledge brokering as a process that can be done by researchers or clinicians who work across both (my emphasis) environments; the key is a detailed understanding of the context in which the research will be used and a recognition that change can only be led by someone respected and informed within the organisation.”

I appreciate Sharon’s comment; however, it is precisely this persistent dichotomous view of working across both environments that misses the point of the value and complexity of knowledge brokering. We have long ago abandoned the “two communities” theory to research use and have embraced co-production as the most robust form of knowledge mobilization. Bridging implies we maintain the silos of research and practice/policy. Knowledge brokers help to break down the silos and create shared spaces of collaboration. It’s not simply about being able to “bridge” one side of university to the other side with community. The value of utilizing knowledge brokers as opposed to researchers or clinicians simply engaging community themselves is that community can also include a variety of stakeholders already mentioned – such as business leaders, entrepreneurs, philanthropists and funding agencies along with institutional and government policy makers.

Don’t get me wrong. If you have researchers or clinicians with the skills of trained knowledge brokers who can work as intermediaries with a variety of people to help them get to know each other and encourage various sectors to think broadly and interact on an ongoing basis in order to learn from others’ experiences as part of the evidence-informed research process – go for it. Yet, I think it detracts from the already focused-work required by researchers and clinicians to do their own work effectively. Knowledge brokers act as a type of conduit for knowledge exchange offered by the various stakeholders from sometimes a broad range of sectors. Typically a knowledge broker offers added value to the research process by an increasingly professionalized skill-set not commonly found among researchers and clinicians themselves.

I also agree with Sharon that change can only be led by someone respected and informed. Evidence has clearly shown that respected leadership is among the determinants of successful research utilization. However, researchers and clinicians who still think that only researchers and clinicians can be respected and informed in the research process are elitist at worse and uniformed at best.

Knowledge exchange is a powerful form of social collaboration – predicated upon broader community participation. Knowledge exchange in the research process creates an invitation for community partners to actively participate in the research process with the help of knowledge brokers who can mediate the different contexts. Such community-university interaction provides the opportunity to reinforce identities as context-specific experts while expanding a mutual identity as collaborators in the research process.

Since knowledge exchange is an ongoing social process, collaborative multi-disciplinary and multi-sector contributions over time weave together a network of people connected by common research interests even though they might have differing backgrounds and views. These types of knowledge networks create value in their own right. With community-university engagement there is greater influence together on issues that affect the broader community and can encourage policy makers to implement change. From a systems perspective, the research process acts as a social process that can mobilize networks, enable social roles to emerge, and allow for creation of social capital.

However, establishing a research process that facilitates knowledge mobilization should not be positioned as some type of panacea. There’s no assurance that community partners or researchers will share what they know, or that the results of research will always be perfect. There’s also no assurance that policy makers or practitioners will listen, or that policy and/or practice changes will happen quickly. It does not guarantee broader effects that lead to better levels of community-university engagement elsewhere. Alone, it’s unlikely to transform some researchers who have a more historic view of the research process or cause dramatic cultural change. Knowledge mobilization is just one way of how social collaboration platforms can mediate within the research process. There are also a host of academic, organizational, leadership, communication, and governance changes and related practices that need to be designed and championed effectively to influence researcher participation to deliver more practical and effective outcomes and impacts of research.

We’re not quite there yet, but the past decade of knowledge mobilization development has shown we’re getting closer.

 

Knowledge Mobilization’s Common Human Agenda

common human agenda

Knowledge mobilization (KMb)/knowledge exchange initiatives involve an openness to sharing knowledge with and from everyone dedicated to the process that leads to a common human agenda, shared commitment, continuous communication, and mutually reinforcing knowledge sharing for social benefit among all people to make the world a better place.

A Knowledge New Year

face to face

As we begin the New Year 2013, we continue to share knowledge through knowledge mobilization by embracing new social networks like Pinterest – while keeping up with the fast pace of others like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.  Sharing and mobilizing knowledge on such platforms makes our local to global communication and collaboration easier and more effective – and has delivered some very tangible national & international knowledge-networking results.

When it comes to today’s fast-paced world of knowledge sharing, there’s no better place for social collaboration than online. These social networks may have made it easier to expand our knowledge networks, but our society has changed from being a more personal, face-to-face world of localized collaborative knowledge sharing activity to a more impersonal and isolated world confined by our digital domains. We went from verbally discussing and sharing knowledge in our in-person environments, around the water-cooler, in meetings, retreats or at conferences to sharing knowledge in a much wider but secluded, online manner of pic-pins, tweets and blogs –away from the very people who we use to bounce ideas off of and exchange knowledge with face-to-face.

When social media advanced to make it possible and easier to automate and broaden our knowledge sharing, it provided valuable knowledge sharing tools – but there is a risk of returning back to the very reasons why online knowledge mobilization/transfer & exchange activities became important in the first place.  In the past, we were often locked in the knowledge-silos of our professional disciplines and institutions where face-to-face knowledge sharing was more closed. There is now a risk that we can become locked behind digital knowledge-silos without face-to-face meetings – even though our knowledge sharing has become more multi-directional and networked.  

Thankfully, in the past few years, in-person and online “networks connected to other networks” – such as EENet – and Communities of Practice (CoPs) connected with other CoPs – such as The Canadian Knowledge Transfer & Exchange CoP (formerly the Ontario Knowledge Transfer & Exchange CoP) have been created to broaden knowledge sharing and engagement. Such knowledge sharing organizations still keep alive – even expanding -opportunities for face-to-face knowledge interactions and collaboration with a variety of stakeholders – while also making use of the value of connecting knowledge online through social media. 

Sadly, in the early race to create an online presence of knowledge links in the digital world, many organizations, institutions and individuals forgot about the value of face-to-face social interactions over social media interactions. The old discipline/institutional knowledge silos were soon replaced with new digital knowledge network silos.

Fortunately, the pendulum has swung back (although some individuals and agencies have yet to even begin to get on the social media page!), and more people recognize the value of both connecting by social media combined with connecting face-to-face to create even broader in-person and inclusive opportunities of knowledge sharing for multiple stakeholders .

In 2012, “social” media was all about collaboration and mobility of knowledge sharing.  Now, by creating both physical and virtual knowledge sharing networks like EENet and communities like The Canadian KTE Cop in-house and remote knowledge sharing have been brought together.

Humans are social beings who enjoy sharing knowledge, and human behaviour will always trump any technology.  Regardless of how sophisticated or user-friendly the technology may be, humans will always need to connect with others in-person. But, we must continue to recognize that we live in a world of diversity and extremes. On any social media platform, there are extreme users, non-users and those that fall in-between – And, there will always be some who feel more comfortable sharing knowledge in-person while others feel more comfortable sharing knowledge online. It makes sense that overly-focusing on one over the other creates missed opportunities.  Combining and expanding both in-person and online connections will enhance the knowledge sharing experiences and increase engagement.

As we begin the New Year 2013, I’d like to wish all of my online and in-person knowledge connections a very happy, healthy and social year of online and in-person knowledge mobilization (KMb)!

Knowledge Beyond Words Or Sounds

Every day we gain knowledge about things, people, ideas, insightful experiences – and every day is an opportunity to share that knowledge to make the world a better place. How often do you stop to think about such a daily opportunity?  Every day we can give of ourselves from our own knowledge to contribute to social benefit and greater understanding around the world.

Personally, I’m always happy to share the knowledge of my life if it can help contribute to improving the world we all live in.  Most of the knowledge I share with other people is what I’ve learned about through my own life experiences – good and bad. This type of knowledge is something we can all share.  And it’s not about being able to pass a test or hold a conversation on a certain topic – it’s about taking the time to share my knowledge with the knowledge of others beyond myself to serve the purpose of creating new knowledge for greater benefit for everyone.

I spend much more time these days trying to share knowledge about who I am and my life experiences, and trying to learn from the vast amounts of knowledge from the world around me – the people and things with whom I share this planet.  Since I’ve started trying to find daily opportunities of sharing knowledge about things beyond mere facts and information, life has become much more gratifying, much more interesting, and much more worthwhile.  My sharing knowledge with and from other people has become easier and deeper, because I now come from a place of genuine interest in the well-being of all my fellow human beings through knowledge mobilization (KMb).

This world is full of knowledge to share to make it a better place – but not all knowledge has to be shared in words or sounds – sometimes knowledge comes through observation and empathy for others.  Not all knowledge communication involves language. We live in a world where there are many languages – so many that we cannot understand. But if we can stop and slow ourselves down and pay attention to all that surrounds us right here and right now in each of our little places on this earth, then we can start to learn to understand the messages that we’re all being given about life and life’s meaning by sharing this knowledge beyond ourselves from every place in this world.

Imagine how our lives might be if everyone on this planet took the time to respect and share knowledge with others to make the world a better place. Suppose people everywhere, simultaneously, stopped what they were doing and paid attention for only as long as it took to recognize our shared knowledge as our shared humanity.  Perhaps the sadness, anger, hatred and pain of the world – visible to all while taking a moment to contribute to our common knowledge – would generate greater understanding and create new and deeper knowledge through knowledge mobilization.  What a gift that would be to make the world a better place.

Knowledge Misunderstanding

Misunderstanding and suspicion – and the resulting tension and mistrust – make knowledge collaborations difficult. Yet making the world a better place starts with addressing such misunderstandings, facing such tensions with empathy, and working to establish informed communication and respectful knowledge collaboration.

The GG’s 3 C’s Of Knowledge Diplomacy

A recent piece written and published in The Globe & Mail by Canada’s Governor-General (GG), His Excellency David Johnston, titled The diplomacy of knowledge points out the 3 C’s that are “the constant, dynamic elements of learning…in the global knowledge society: creativity, communication and co-operation.

The Governor-General’s article reiterates the core messages of my KMbeing blog posts about the ultimate value of sharing knowledge – sometimes in a more creative manner – in any situation with anyone to make the world a better place. His Excellency refers to this as the diplomacy of knowledge, “defined as our ability and willingness to work together and share our learning across disciplines and borders.”

My KMbeing blog has always promoted Knowledge Mobilization (KMb) in a holistic (and perhaps at times idealistic) way to advance knowledge and combine knowledge to create new knowledge to make the world a better place. The Governor-General rightly points out the current priority of knowledge – “as opposed to military might or GDP…as the new currency and passport to success.”

In my own way I have attempted in my KMbeing blog to describe His Excellency’s idea of diplomacy of knowledge as a way to “open up relationships between peoples” at all levels and “foster harmony in an interconnected world.” It’s very affirming to see that the core message in my KMbeing blog about the value of knowledge mobilization and knowledge sharing at every opportunity for global value is also recognised at a higher level by the representative of Her Majesty, The Queen, in Canada.

As the Governor-General states, “learning together is an important part of living together.” His Excellency also states that “while many of our greatest challenges arise through the interplay of complex problems, so, too, do our greatest advances often occur at the intersections between disciplines.” I couldn’t agree more, as I pointed out in my KMb model below where the intersections for social benefit across sectors occur.

I am truly proud to be a Canadian – and a Canadian knowledge mobilizer – who can be considered part of our Governor General’s recognition that “Canadians can play an important role in the global knowledge society.” Previous blog posts in KMbeing similarly speak of the GG’s 3 C’s of knowledge diplomacy with the recurring messages of sharing personal creativity, communication and co-operation through personal knowledge mobilization to make the world a better place. I strive to bring a sense of creativity to each KMbeing blog post, communication of personal knowledge for everyone, and co-operation for social benefit with the ultimate goal of making the world a better place for everyone – or as the Governor General concludes…”envisaging a world in which all nations (and all peoples) are eager to know and share their learning.”

 

Knowledge Communication & Demonstration

Knowledge is about communication and demonstration.

Knowledge Communication

Our understanding of knowledge shapes our communication practices.