Monday, May 05, 2014

Dialogue: a tool to facilitate the exchange of knowledge

Today’s environment for sharing information, evidence and knowledge is complicated--perhaps even complex. (A whole other topic all together ... for another time!) A variety of tools, styles, formats and time elements affect our ability to communicate clearly and efficiently. With the plethora of models that can be customized for specific needs, styles and wants, one would think communication would be more often successful – but its often not.

One method relied upon to share information and knowledge (depending on how you define knowledge) is the written text – in whatever format it is delivered. I had a colleague once suggest to me that librarians needed to embrace "dialogue" as a tool to share knowledge rather than the provision of articles and other stagnate information and evidence artifacts.

This is an intriguing idea. It certainly builds on the KM concepts outlined by Nancy Dixon in her 2000 book Common Knowledge (ISBN: 0875849040). In that classic text she promotes team discussion and feedback as mechanisms for knowledge transfer  -- which highlighting that a structured process is what helps make it successful. So shouldn't others consider it too?

This idea of transferring knowledge in small groups rings true in patient safety circles as well with the emphasis and interest in debriefs, patient and family-centered rounds, daily huddles, walkarounds and regular team/unit meetings serving as knowledge transfer opportunities in the acute care environment. These communication mechanisms allow for knowledge and information to be shared as needed -- in a context that allows real-time impact of the knowledge and information shared to be acknowledged through action.

In response to my colleague, then, can and should information professionals facilitate and contribute to the use of dialogue as a knowledge sharing activity? Should management and clinician leaders enable that engagement? If so, what is the best marriage of the librarians skill set with the function of dialogue? I recognize that at the sharp end it may be more difficult, but the closer librarians are to the clinical team the more likely it is to happen. Certainly participating in front line information exchange activities from time to time will help inform any dialogue that might result in trying to invigorate evidence, information and knowledge (EIK) services that seek to contribute to improving the reliability of care processes. Also participating in committees, not only from a service perspective but as an EIK strategist will strengthen partnerships and boundary spanning opportunities.

Lastly -- dialogue is a key systems thinking tool. If info pros are to be realized as systems thinkers, shouldn't they be adept and comfortable demonstrating AND explaining the art of dialogue as a tool in THEIR information and knowledge sharing arsenal? I think so.

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