The Key to Transferring Knowledge the Right Wayby Opinion Express September 17, 2018 0 comments
Transferring knowledge to another person requires strategic thinking. But, the practitioners in the learning and development are not flagging these issues.
Every individual has some defining characteristics which are not necessarily in a hierarchy scale of undesirable to desirable. An example will make this clear. All species, including Homo sapiens, have certain universal attributes. All of them are born, they grow through their life-cycle and finally die. These are universal events of living entities. What is unique to Homo sapiens is the attendant ritual at each of the three universal events of birth, growth and death. The rituals are a result of a much more evolved brain function of the Homo sapiens compared to other living species. The rituals require thought, choices, practice and communication. They are impacted by agro-climatic conditions and anointed by leaders of the community. Following them is an assumed compliance — getting out of step can have severe retribution. Often, all this gets captioned as culture.
Rituals of birth, growth and death in river valley cultures lean heavily on the use of water. The rituals of Homo sapiens in the desert have a different basis. People identify with the rituals in which they are born. They have a sense of ownership and proprietorship. As part of the cultural paradigm, there are times when this can overlap with their religious practices.
The purpose is not to explain, explore or discuss cultural paradigms. It is to demonstrate how the process of learning is also determined by these attributes. Illustratively, in the Asian ethos, motherhood is very often glamorized and often deified with many socio-religious overtones.
No feminist, however, at loggerheads with males, has in the name of feminine equality, ever advocated the depluming of social idioms which elevate feminism. Few ever advocated putting fatherhood at the same level of deference as motherhood. These may appear as removed examples so far as learning is concerned but in reality that is not so. A shift in the domain of observation to the West from the Asian paradigms may be useful. In the Teutonic race, often held to be synonymous with macho traits and marshal qualities, it is fatherhood that is celebrated.
In India, it is the motherland. In Germany, it is the fatherland. Accordingly, transference of learning, say from Germany to India, brings to the fore varying assumptions. Technology is not ‘technology’ anywhere. It is impacted by machine acclimatisation factors. When vermilion is applied to a machine, say a turbine, it is one story. When it is assembled elsewhere, say in a post-industrial country, the mindset of the worker is different. Learning styles are different. Hence, learning methodologies call for distinction.
The training and learning world awaits factoring in of these considerations. Unless they are an artificial implant, it does not integrate itself with the subconscious psyche of the learner. The cultural dominance of the teacher/trainer/instructor/facilitator is an impediment in the smooth transference of learning.
Synergistically, learning is always a two-way process. Presumably, the instructor is knowledgeable in techniques. But the techniques themselves undergo a metamorphosis when technology is converted into engineering. To give a specific example, in the West, anti-corrosion coating is not so widely needed as in South East Asian region. There are serious variances in patterns of automobile maintenance.
It is about time the nuances of cross-border learning are captured and to the extent feasible, incorporated not only in the instructional process but the design process of the products. Technology needs to be resilient enough to absorb the changes that are needed in the process of technology transfer and indeed, learning transfer. There are subtle ways of preying on the mind. Whichever way one wants to play, it becomes easier when the symbols expressing the psyche of the recipient entity are understood empathetically by the ‘carriers of learning’ from other lands. Put simply, learning transfer expects a factoring in of the exchange between the subcultures of the engaging institutions.
Practitioners in the field of learning and development have barely begun to flag these issues. It remains to be pointed out that cross-border learning transfer has in effect issues of learning exchange. The nature of interaction has to do with product design. Suzuki Motors had at one time collaborated with General Motors in Canada. Operating from Ingersoll was essentially to help Suzuki permeate the American and European Markets. However, the upshot was General Motors personnel had to adopt and adapt Japanese manufacturing methods. In this case, the emphasis was on knowledge transfer.
Such processes require strategic thinking. Very few books or publications or references as of now seem to recognise this need while dealing with training. This state of affairs is poised for change. The sooner it happens, the better for everyone. In case of India, sooner the Indian world of profession(s) put its head together to identify and uphold Indian standards of work and outcomes, the easier it will be to tackle the issues listed above.
(The writer is a well-known management consultant)
Writer: Vinayshil Gautam
Courtesy: The Pioneer