Tag Archive | human resources

Knowledge mobilization

By Peter Muijres – Culture Class

Never in human history have we hunted for so much data, information and knowledge.

Never in human history have we gathered so much that is useful but not used.

The gap between existing and applied information concerns all types of human activity: raising children, buying food, designing products, disposing of waste, caring for the sick, governing resources, creating art. What are the results of research and development worth if nobody can use them, except perhaps a select few?

Knowledge Mobilization is a complex and emergent process that focuses on making what we know ready for action to produce value. The term was coined by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) in the first years of this millennium. The need for knowledge mobilization has arisen from the complex knowledge production process that has consistently failed to translate the most useful evidence resulting from practice and research into everyday outcomes that could benefit our decision making.

Why does new and useful intelligence often end in a file, on a shelf or in a head instead of being made available to public benefit? Many factors contribute to the knowledge gap. Policies aimed at smothering conflicting interests and delay caused by bureaucratic hurdles are only two of them. The ‘information revolution’ appears to provide another explanation for the knowledge gap between knowing and doing . As a result of internet, the “expert” is no longer viewed as a dominant source of knowledge. The increased competition between sources of information has led to heightened confusion and anxiety, as to what is the “best” method of ensuring positive outcomes for the decisions we take.

What can we do to make knowledge available for application? Peter Levesque suggests that knowledge mobilization is led from the middle and for the purpose. The issues of power and control are central – especially in institutional settings. He argues that more important than content, are considerations of context, capacity, and a culture that supports the use, sharing, and co-creation of knowledge(s), in its many forms. Value is always created in exchange. Exchange can be in multiple forms that depend on context, capacity of individuals and organizations, the accessibility of content, and he culture that supports exchange and value production.

Some core questions include:

  • How do we integrate multiple sources of data, information and knowledge into our daily activities, whether they be consumer decisions, or high-level policy decisions?
  • How do we, collectively and individually, move from making decisions based mostly on emotions and opinions to making decisions based on individual as well as collective understanding?
  • How do we move from holding on to what we know rather than sharing it and acting on it in ways that are mutually beneficial?

Having useful evidence available to us in a timely fashion, in a format that we can use, is critical to the change from simply knowing to doing – and doing the best we can.

Knowledge Mobilization also includes active processes of creating linkages and exchanges between producers and users of data, information, and knowledge to engage in value-added activities. It includes a more entrepreneurial perspective than is often seen in disciplinary academic research and includes awareness of opportunities, key partnerships, market conditions, technological supports, and concepts of innovation.



The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

By Peter Muijres – cultureclass.org

“Management is doing things right; Leadership is doing the right things”

In 1989, Stephen published his #1 best-seller: ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’. The book sold over 15 million copies and is became a classic in management literature.

Covey presents his teachings in a series of habits. The habits build onto each other and are expected to become an integrated part of one’s character, manifested as a progression from dependence via independence to interdependence.

  1. Dependence: the paradigm under which we are born, relying upon others to take care of us.
  2. Independence: the paradigm under which we can make our own decisions and take care of ourselves.
  3. Interdependence: the paradigm under which we cooperate to achieve something that cannot be achieved independently.

The first three habits focus on self‐mastery, that is, achieving the private victories required to move from dependence to independence. The second three habits focus achieving public victory, aimed at realising effective interdependence. The seventh habit is one of renewal and continual improvement, that is, of building one’s personal ‘production capability’ or the ability to produce. 

Habit 1: Be Proactive Focus on the things you can actually do something about. Change starts from within, and highly effective people make the decision to improve their lives through the things that they can influence rather than by simply reacting to external forces.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind Begin everything you do with a clear picture of your ultimate goal. Develop a principle‐centered personal mission statement. Extend the mission statement into long‐term goals based on personal principles.

Habit 3: Put First Things First Manage your life according to your needs and priorities. Spend time doing what fits into your personal mission, observing the proper balance between production and building production capacity. Identify the key roles that you take on in life, and make time for each of them.

Habit 4: Think Win‐Win Integrity: Stick with your true feelings, values, and commitments Maturity: Be considerate of the feelings of others Abundance Mentality: Believe there is plenty for everyone. Seek agreements and relationships that are mutually beneficial. In cases where a “win/win” deal cannot be achieved, accept the fact that agreeing to make “no deal” may be the best alternative. In developing an organizational culture, be sure to reward win/win behaviour among employees and avoid inadvertantly rewarding win/lose behaviour.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood Learn how to communicate clearly and listen to others. Stephen Covey presents this habit as the most important principle of interpersonal relations. Effective listening is not simply echoing what the other person has said through the lens of one’s own experience. Rather, it is putting oneself in the perspective of the other person, listening empathically for both feeling and meaning.

Habit 6: Synergize “Two heads are better than one.” Through trustful communication, find ways to leverage individual differences to create a whole that is greater than the sum of the parts. Through mutual trust and understanding, one often can solve conflicts and find a better solution than would have been obtained through either person’s own solution.

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw Allow yourself to grow by maintaining a balanced program in the four areas of your life: physical, social/emotional, mental, and spiritual. Take time out from production to build production capacity through personal renewal of the physical, mental, social/emotional, and spiritual dimensions.

To be effective, one must find the proper balance between actually producing and improving one’s capability to produce. Covey illustrates this point with the fable of the goose and the golden egg. In the fable, a poor farmer’s goose began laying a solid gold egg every day. The farmer soon became rich and greedy. In order to obtain all of the eggs immediately, he killed the goose and cut her open. By attempting to maximise immediate production with no regard to the production capability, the capability will be lost.

Although very interesting, Covey’s paradigm also raises some questions. Are conditions for character development as universal and as timeless as he suggests, always and for everyone? The book has been written in 1989 and the world has seen a revolution in communication technology during the last 25+ years. It could be argued that personality (how you come across), has become more important, than character (who you are) in online communication. Also, being able to change the sails and adapt your working model to fit cultural terms and conditions is giving international business managers the competitive edge today.

Covey already notes himself that much of the success literature tends to overvalue independence, to ‘realise and be yourself’ at all costs. The independent model is not optimal for use in an interdependent environment that requires both leaders and team players. The meaning of and approaches to achieving effectiveness already varied greatly between people and organisations and time has added additional changes. Where, with whom and how information is shared, decisions are made, and identities are negotiated has also dramatically changed.  In fact, big changes have happened so rapidly that the majority of people haven’t had time to come to terms yet with what has actually been going on and what has been left behind – let alone what to prepare for.

Covey’s book ‘The 8th Habit: From Effectiveness to Greatness’ (2004) addresses how some of the changes that have taken place may have outdated some of the ideas behind the seven habits. He claims that effectiveness does not suffice in what he calls “The Knowledge Worker Age”. He proclaims that “the challenges and complexity we face today are of a different order of magnitude.” So, according to Covey, becoming great has become dependent on finding your voice and inspiring others to do the same.

http://www.cultureclass.org | Training and personal development  

Determinants of expatriate adjustment – a 1985 vintage version

By Peter Muijres

What are the determinants of expatriate adjustment in a cross-cultural setting? The researchers Black, Mendenhall and Oddou suggested a ‘comprehensive’ model of international adjustment in 1991 based on a review of empirical studies on ‘overseas’ adjustment of expatriate managers by the latter two (Mendenhall & Oddou, 1985).

Eight years later, Shaffer et al. (1999) adapted the model by adding some new factors, including language fluency, and making a bunch of other changes. However, the 1985 review and the original 1991 model, displayed in the featuring image, included some useful handles that may help expats out there in their adjustment process. These individual and the ‘non-work factors’ in specific will be given full attention at the expense of all the rest.

The authors differentiated three sorts of ‘international adjustment’: (1) adjustment to work, (2) adjustment to interacting with host nationals, and (3) adjustment to the general environment. Good adjustment in one area spills over into another, as you might expect from anything having to do with people, motives and mental health.

The individual factors have been divided into a self-efficacy (self-oriented), relational skills (other-oriented) and perception skills. The self-oriented individual skill includes at least three subsets of skills:

(1) Reinforcement substitution: the ability to find replacing interests and joys.

This entails finding an alternative to fill the gap left by the loss of a cherished passtime that you cannot continue after relocation. If skiing is no longer an option, but photograpyhy is, perhaps that might develop into your new passion with a similar effect.

(2) Stress reduction: the ability to recuperate from stress.

Being exposed to an environment that is sometimes difficult to understand or predict is stressful. Some expats reduce that stress by regularly taking a time out for themselves to limit their exposure to external stressors and recuperate from stress, for example by engaging in a comforting activity like writing, yoga, or a cigarette break outside.

(3) Technical competence: on the job functionioning with good results.

Expats who are tuned into their sociocultural environment, perform better. Good performance promotes a positive attitude and successful adaptation and vice versa. However, HR people often wrongly assume that performance abroad will be as it has been at home and base the selection of future expats on their track record only.

The other-oriented individual skills has been relabelled ‘relation skills’. It involves the ability to develop new relationships and a willingness to communicate. Having host national friends (or indeed: lovers) may greatly benefit your intercultural adjustment in various ways.

Having local friends may not only enhance your opportunities to interact with host nationals, they may also introduce you to their way of life and help you to recognise, understand and appreciate the cultural differences. You might be introduced to their families or be taken to non-touristic places where you witness how things are done and people treated when undisturbed by office formalities and social expectations.

Even showing an interest in the non-expat population often earns you credits, as is learning the local language. However, beware of quick solutions and culturally insensitive approaches. Yelling local jokes out loud, reciting the tong twister of the local language (and pronunciating it wrongly), intruding into people’s breathing space and laughing hysterically at whatever one may say or do, doesn’t necessarily attract friends.

The perception based individual skills purport having a non-evaluative attitude and the ability to make correct intercultural attributions. Learned cultural differences in perceptions and evaluations of social behaviour often lead people from different cultures to misinterpret each other. Understanding the motives of host nationals also helps the foreigner to predict how their opinions and behaviour will be received.

The non-work factors affect the degree or extent of international adjustment, not how it happens. ‘Cultural novelty’, still called ‘cultural toughness’ in 1985, reflects the country specific variables that facilitate acculturation to a particular setting. Hofstede (1980) has made this dimension better known as ‘cultural distance’. Being in host countries with similar features as your home culture makes the whole process of settling in much easier.

Another non-work factor is ‘Adjustment of Family-Spouse’. Less exposure to and needs to come to terms with cultural differences make it less urgent adapt your mindset and personal life. Cultural restrictions in a male dominated society make adapting for western wives even extra challenging. Unsatisfied social and emotional needs of poorly adapted family members, and perhaps the associated consequences, may lead partners or dads to cut their assignment short and return back home.

Besides Individual and nonwork factors, also job factors, organisation culture and organisation socialization factors affect mode and/or degree of adjustment. The job dimension contain factors related to job clarity, job discretion, job novelty and job conflict. The ‘organisation culture’ dimension addresses the novelty of the organisation culture, social support and logistical help experienced by the expat. ‘Organisation socialisation’ entails tactics and content that only affects the mode, not the degree of expatriate adjustment. All these dimensions affecting in-country adjustment, are precipitated by Anticipatory adjustment factors. Intercultural training and previous experience affect ‘accurate expectations’ on an individual dimension. Selection mechanisms and criteria on an organisational level predict the mode and degree of in-country adjustment.

Although expatriate adjustment wasn’t much of a concern until the late 1970s and the research still in a very early phase in 1985, the research tradition has never changed much. Many different models of intercultural adjustment have been offered during the last four decades. Just like people or eras in time, each has its own pros, cons and particularities. Mostly, attention is paid to how individuals move around as actively processing centers of awareness, but less to the parts played in multiple systems. The transcultural dynamics involving the locally available social groups, the home front and virtual communities for example, as well as the adaptation process as an often emotion based process that takes time do not always receive the attention they deserve.

http://www.cultureclass.org | Training and Development

Culture Class provides training in personal effectiveness, culture and communication skills

The five axioms of communication (Watzlawick) – with a few cultural notes

By Peter Muijres – Culture Class (.org)

Communication is an ever present feature of human interaction. The five axioms of communication, formulated by Paul Watzlawick and his colleagues help to describe the processes of communication that take place during interaction and help to explain how a misunderstanding may come about. A few notes are added to tune the axioms better into a transcultural context.

The five axiomas are:

1. One cannot not communicate. The first axiom shows that everything one does is a message: “Activity or inactivity, words or silence all have message value: they influence others and these others, in turn, cannot not respond to these communications and are thus themselves communicating” (Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson, 1967, p. 1). This is true only however if the parties are “in the presence of another” (Watzlawick & Beavin, 1967, p. 4). This can cause problems in the relationship system though. For example, if one doesn’t want to communicate and inadvertently communicates this fact it may anger the other party. The appreciation for people who behave emotionally reserved verses who express their thoughts and feelings freely, may differ considerately between cultures. Insensitivity to these differences or the signals that people send, may hinder or undermine a smooth acculturation process considerately.

2. The second axiom, states that there are both “content and relationship levels of communication” (p. 1). Content refers to the actual subject matter of what is being discussed. The relationship level of a communicative act has to do with how the two communicators view one another and how they convey it. As Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson (1967) put it, “All such relationship statements are about one or several of the following assertions: ‘This is how I see myself…this is how I see you…this is how I see you seeing me…’” and therefore determines “how this communication is to be taken” (pg. 3). Watzlawick and Beavin (1967) describe the relationship level as “information about this [content level] information” (p. 5). Culture and communication training teach you how to prevent leaving an unintended negative impression with people from other cultures and tells you how to read whether you and your communication style are received well.

3. The third axiom is concerned with how participants in the system punctuate their communicative sequences. In a communicative event “every item in the sequence is simultaneously stimulus, response, and reinforcement” (Bateson & Jackson qtd. in Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson, 1967, p. 4). Therefore, one can interpret an act as being a response (‘I don’t trust you, because you don’t share your feelings with me’), while the other can interpret it as being a stimulus (‘I don’t share my feelings with people that don’t trust me’). Different punctuations make people see the sequence of events differently and may lead to endless conflicts that make pointing the finger at each other a pointless exercise. No one participant’s behaviour can be said to cause the other’s.

4. The fourth axiom is that communication can be both digital and analogical. The digital code is what the person says, what the words actually mean, while the analogical code has to do with how something is said or the nonverbal cues that go along with it. This means that someone can convey two opposing messages at once, which may cause problems. It pays off to learn how to identify when people are silently saying yes, even when you hear “no”  (not to confuse with taking a plain ‘no’ for a ‘yes’), and when they really aren’t interested.

5. Finally, the fifth axiom is concerned with the communication being either symmetrical or complimentary. This simply means that either the participants in the system are on equal ground with regards to power relations, or one of them is over the other. Conflict may arise when a party likes the status quo to change.

The strength of the five axioms exists foremost in explaining what happens during a communication process, rather than steering it.

Culture Class provides personal development, culture and communication training – http://www.cultureclass.org