Factors influencing knowledge uptake by practitioners: Individual characteristics

by | May 30, 2023 | Relevant Resources, Blogs


This blog is the first in a series of four blogs that delve into the factors determining whether practitioners (e.g. producers, viticulturists and winemakers) will engage with new information presented to them. ‘New information’ in this context refers to anything new to you. It is your first time hearing or reading about it. It can be ‘old information’ for other people. It does not necessarily only refer to the latest academic research results, which, by default, is new information.

Researchers in the social sciences have been researching factors influencing knowledge uptake by practitioners from various industries for many years. Knowing these factors and their role in knowledge uptake can assist organisations and individuals such as research institutions, industry bodies, service providers, and practitioner groups in tailoring knowledge transfer opportunities to promote maximum uptake. Knowledge uptake is vital for industries to evolve, innovate, become, and remain profitable and sustainable. Knowledge uptake is integrally linked to the economic welfare of industries and countries.

Figure 1: Factors influencing knowledge uptake by practitioners

Figure 1 lists the most important factors influencing knowledge uptake by practitioners as reported in the scientific literature. They are the individual characteristics of the practitioner, the characteristics of the knowledge source, the characteristics of the knowledge itself and the knowledge transfer channel. The weight of influence of these main factors, as indicated in percentage examples, will differ from individual to individual, but most of the time individual characteristics will carry the most weight.


So, what are these individual characteristics?

Learning intent refers to whether a person wants to and is open to learning something new. Learning intent differs from person to person and can also vary from time to time in the same individual. Sometimes life is just too hectic with day-to-day tasks to make time for learning something new, even though the intent is there. Several winemakers mentioned this as a constraint to knowledge uptake in a recent South African wine industry study.

Absorptive capacity refers to practitioners’ ability to understand new information. For example, it is easier and quicker for a winemaker making Pinot noir to absorb information about Pinot noir winemaking (because of foundational knowledge) than for a winemaker who has never made Pinot noir. It is also easier for viticulturists and winemakers with formal qualifications in oenology and viticulture to understand technical winemaking articles in WineLand magazine than, say, the general public who lacks the foundational knowledge.

Values and beliefs refer to practitioners’ unique ideas about how for example, wine should be made. Some winemakers believe spontaneous fermentation is the best for their wines, and some believe commercial yeast is the better choice. Some producers believe organic or biodynamic is the best way to farm, and some stick to conventional viticulture. Practitioners are less likely to engage with knowledge sources that go against their values and beliefs. An interesting finding from the mentioned South African knowledge uptake study is that almost 30% of South African winemakers agreed with the statement: “My current knowledge of winemaking is enough for me.” This finding can be interpreted in more than one way, but one way would be that they believe they know enough about winemaking to do their job. If you believe you know enough about something, chances are you will have less interaction with sources of new information about that something. Instead, you will focus on information about something else you know less about (e.g. marketing), or you won’t try to learn new things at all and will just use your existing knowledge and experience.

Motivation and rewards refer to what drives you to learn something new. Motivation can be intrinsic or extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is the internal drive to do something for its inherent satisfaction rather than an external reward. Extrinsic motivation is a motivation to participate in an activity based on meeting an external goal, doing well in a competition, garnering approval and praise, or receiving payment or a reward. In winemaker terms, extrinsic motivation would be to earn a good salary, do well in wine competitions, be acknowledged by peers as a good winemaker, and be selected for the Cape Winemakers Guild.

Innovativeness refers to how “not set in his/her ways” a winemaker is. Meaning, how likely are you to try something new, and how soon after you hear about it will you try it? About 50% of the winemakers who participated in the knowledge uptake study indicated that they would immediately try an innovation if it could benefit them.  This shows a high level of innovativeness; such practitioners are known as innovators and early adopters. The rest will wait until someone else tries it first; some will even wait until most of the industry has adopted the innovation. Innovators and early adopters are usually keen to learn new stuff.

Centrality refers to a person’s standing in a social network. If you are seen as an opinion leader in your area, it is most likely because you are someone with rich experience, expertise and knowledge. Opinion leaders are usually aware that they are opinion leaders due to the frequency with which other producers or winemakers contact them. As a result, they tend to try and stay on top of the latest interesting information and technologies.


Final words

In the following three blogs, the roles of the characteristics of the knowledge source, the characteristics of the knowledge itself and the knowledge transfer channels, also referred to as learning pathways, will be discussed. They are the factors that knowledge producers, to some extent, can have some level of control over. Knowledge producers have no control over the individual characteristics of people. The cumulative effect of all these factors determines a specific human behaviour, i.e., knowledge uptake.



O’Kennedy, K. (2022). Wine scientists and winemakers as two communities: Bridging the gap through boundary-spanning activities, PhD thesis, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch. http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/125902


Image: Pixabay

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