!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Managing Stickiness in Information Transfer

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Managing Stickiness in Information Transfer

The Goizueta Business School at Emory University has given an advance look at work on knowledge transfer done by Roopa Raman, one of their graduate students, under the guidance of Anandhi Bharadwaj, an associate professor of information systems and operations management.

Emory's summary of the Raman/Bharadwaj paper, "Exploring Stickiness in Knowledge Transfer Processes: The Case of Evidence-Based Medicine," is here.

Notable points:
  • As Raman explains, “When you introduce a new practice for accomplishing a certain subgoal associated with [the patient medication administration] process, based on the latest scientific evidence, the new practice often introduces rippling changes in other interdependent subgoals involving other roles. Often people in those other work roles may be reluctant to accommodate these changes because they don’t see the value or they may think those changes are going to introduce new difficulties in their own work flow. That’s when transferring the new practice becomes sticky: when that misalignment exists between interdependent parts of the same process or when that need for realignment is not accepted or is not convenient for people.”

  • The impacts of stickiness in knowledge transfer are not necessarily entirely negative. For example, the existence of stickiness can stimulate innovation and creativity in redesigning a work process to improve the quality of the outcome of the process.

  • Multiple simultaneous interventions to correct stickiness are likely to produce better results than a single intervention. Using the example cited in Emory's report, correcting shortcomings in the process of administering medicine to inpatients is probably best handled by making several adjustments along the path from creation of the medication order, to recording the administration to the patient.

  • Information systems can be adjusted to promote effective information transfer. For example, a hospital "can embed the structure of the new evidence-based practice within the clinical information systems that healthcare providers in the hospital are required to use for documenting their work relating to these practices. The electronic documentation requirements thereby mirror the new knowledge-based practice that the organization aims to transfer, thus prompting the various players — in this case doctors, nurses and other hospital staff — to follow the new practice."
For further discussion of the issue of stickiness in knowledge transfer, the work of Gabriel Szulanski, a professor of strategy at INSEAD, is a good place to start. See, for example, his 2003 book, Sticky Knowledge: Barriers to Knowing in the Firm.


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