There is a critical need for the family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) workforce to share and apply evidence and best practices to inform and improve programs and services. Sharing our experiences with program failures, in particular, gives us some of our greatest insights. Despite people’s best intentions, however, they often do not fully engage in knowledge sharing.
Sharing information requires individuals to engage in seemingly selfless behavior that is often not part of their direct responsibility. Cabrera and Cabrera (2002) identify clear costs to knowledge sharing, including a potential loss of competitive advantage. It also consumes time that people might otherwise invest in tasks with clear and direct personal benefits. When it comes to sharing failures, people are even more hesitant for many reasons, including the fear of losing the respect of their peers.
So how do we encourage the FP/RH workforce to share their knowledge with each other, particularly regarding their failures?
Before we answer this question, we first need to measure knowledge sharing.
Most research on knowledge sharing uses surveys that measure people’s self-reported information- sharing behavior and intentions to share. Fewer studies exist with empirical evidence on actual sharing behavior, and the empirical studies that do exist tend to focus on knowledge sharing through online communities for commercial profit rather than for health and development professionals.
To fill this gap and better understand how information sharing can be improved in the FP/RH community, Knowledge SUCCESS conducted an online assessment to capture and measure actual information sharing behavior and intention to share failures among a sample of FP/RH and other global health professionals based in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia (see Table, attached). We recently finished collecting data for the assessment and are currently finalizing the analysis of our findings. The main goal of the assessment was to investigate the most effective behavioral nudges to encourage information sharing (generally) and sharing of failures (more specifically).
We tested the following behavioral nudges:
In addition to these behavioral nudges, we explored the positive and negative associations with a body of terms that describe “failures” to identify the best way to convey the meaning while avoiding strong negative connotations.
Finally, the assessment also explored whether and how information sharing behavior differs by gender. For example, previous research suggested that people have a tendency to interact with other people of the same gender. Therefore, we investigated whether information sharing behavior differed when individuals were asked to share with someone of the same gender compared with someone of a different gender. In addition, studies have shown that women experience more hostility than men when presenting at conferences, which may discourage them from sharing publicly at a live session or gathering. In our failure-sharing assessment, we explored gender differences in participants’ intention to share failures when they were told that there would be a live Q&A session after the failure-sharing event.
Given the amount of value that knowledge sharing can add to the FP/RH field, the outcomes from this study will aid Knowledge SUCCESS and the broader FP/RH community in the following ways:
We recently completed data collection for these experiments and look forward to sharing the insights with the broader FP/RH community as they become available. Stay tuned for more information!
To learn more about Knowledge SUCCESS behavioral research, register for our June 16 webinar here.