Theoretical framework

The model of knowledge transfer used by the Centre of Research Expertise for the Prevention of Musculoskeletal Disorders is based on three theoretical foundations: the social interactionist model of knowledge transfer (Huberman,1994; Wenger, 1998), social network theory (Lutz, 1997; Valente, 1996; West et al., 1999), and diffusion of innovation (Rogers, 2003).

The social interactionist model supports the idea that knowledge is essentially social and is created within a social context, and the more sustained and intense the interaction between researchers and potential ‘users’ at multiple phases within the research study, the higher the potential for knowledge use.

Network theory says that these links are built through repeated, sequential forms of interaction such as exchanges of information, following rules of reciprocity, which evolve into a common understanding of mutual commitment and trust in the goodwill of others.

The diffusion of innovation theory (Rogers, 2003) has examined what makes for a more easily adopted innovation, the channels of communication that encourage adoption, the stages of adoption that individuals and companies go through (not necessarily linearly), and that adoption of innovation is a time-consuming activity.

Evidence-based Principles of KTE:

  • Involving the potential users of the research (the workplace parties and select stakeholders) as an integral part of the research will make sure that the message that is developed will be seen as relevant and appropriate
  • The message needs to be seen as relevant, reasonably simple, close to what is already being done, and “do-able”
  • Interactive engagement with stakeholders is more effective regardless of the message; for example, workshops and training are more effective than pay-slip reminders
  • Knowledge transfer is easier depending on the strength of the relationships between the research partners and the workplace, and between workplace parties
  • The message needs to adapt to the different audiences; for example, linesmen will get different messages that those delivered to their supervisors
  • There is a strong role for intermediaries (knowledge brokers) to bridge the gap between the research and the workplace
  • The best communicator of a message is someone that the workers respects, so it is advantageous to bring supervisors on board as the communicators
  • Two or more techniques (multifaceted interventions) of knowledge transfer if used at the same time seem to be more effective
  • Knowledge transfer interventions should be evaluated to lead to continuous improvement