Various factors influence whether practitioners such as grape producers, viticulturists and winemakers will acquire new information. The previous two blogs discussed the influence of practitioners’ individual characteristics and the knowledge source’s characteristics. This blog discusses the characteristics of the knowledge itself and how it can influence knowledge uptake.
The nature of the knowledge
Whether information is theoretical or practical can influence its uptake. Theoretical knowledge (know what and why) is scientifically created and validated and commonly communicated through written materials and presentations at events. It provides practitioners with a profound understanding of a product or a process, which can enhance their expertise. It serves as the foundation for practical application, helping practitioners develop a solid knowledge base for problem-solving and decision-making.
Practical knowledge is the knowledge of how to do things. It is usually readily applicable to practitioners’ daily tasks and challenges, providing actionable solutions and techniques they can use immediately. Practitioners can acquire specific skills and competencies through the uptake of practical knowledge, enhancing their ability to perform tasks effectively.
Practical knowledge is usually more likely to be embraced, especially if it provides a solution to a problem. A recent study among South African winemakers found that most participants preferred practical knowledge that addresses their immediate concerns. They, therefore, tend to interact with sources of practical knowledge, such as other winemakers and suppliers of products and services, more regularly compared to sources of theoretical information, say written materials. The study also found that winemakers differ regarding the amount of theoretical knowledge they desire. It can be seen as a spectrum, with the one extreme being winemakers requiring in-depth explanations of the science behind a product or process, and the other extreme being winemakers only requiring the price and basic usage guidelines. Most winemakers lie somewhere in between, dispersed over the spectrum.
An innovation has to offer some kind of benefit for practitioners and organisations for them to adopt it. Benefits can include cost-effectiveness, convenience, process improvement, sustained competitive advantage, social prestige and improved workplace safety. Reading or hearing about research projects may not be immediately useful to practitioners. For many practitioners, it is more a nice to know and something to be aware of for future consideration. Many practitioners only become interested in research results when the information becomes useful in their specific environments. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule.
Ease of use
The complexity of the knowledge can affect its uptake. If the information is overly technical, difficult to understand, or requires significant effort to implement, practitioners may be less likely to adopt it. On the other hand, knowledge that is straightforward, easy to grasp and apply will have a higher chance of being embraced.
In the South African study, some of the interviewed suppliers of oenological products mentioned that some winemakers, when implementing a new process, “cut corners” by not following the communicated protocol to the point. This can be due to a lack of time, not having the financial resources to implement the protocol as prescribed, deliberately taking chances, or it can be a complex process, and winemakers find it challenging to implement in their specific environments.
The ability to observe the results or benefits of applying the knowledge can influence uptake. If practitioners can see tangible evidence of the positive impact of the innovation, they are more likely to believe in its efficacy and adopt it. Field days where vineyard trials can be observed and interactive knowledge exchange can take place are conducive to knowledge uptake by grape producers and viticulturists. Winemakers are likelier to adopt an innovation if they can smell and taste the wine produced with it. This is one of the main reasons tasting and study group meetings are popular knowledge exchange events for winemakers (probably also because of the informal wine consumption afterwards).
The timing of knowledge dissemination can significantly impact uptake. Presenting information when practitioners actively seek solutions or face relevant challenges can increase adoption. For instance, winemaking is a process. You harvest, you ferment, you stabilise, you bottle. In general, winemakers are open to information relevant to the part of the process they find themselves in. Winemakers are not necessarily interested in information about wine yeasts when they have just finished a three-month harvest season. Suppliers of oenological products are very good at tailoring their knowledge-sharing efforts according to the predominant winemaking processing steps, making them a popular knowledge source in the SA wine industry.
Innovation and tradition
Winemakers often balance the desire for innovation with preserving traditional winemaking practices. The knowledge representing a balanced approach, respecting traditional methods while introducing improvements, may be more appealing for some winemakers.
Availability of resources
Practitioners may consider the availability of financial resources when deciding whether to adopt an innovation. Innovations that align with their available resources may have a higher chance of uptake.
Risk and uncertainty
Practitioners may be cautious about adopting new knowledge if it involves significant risk or uncertainty regarding the impact on wine quality and production outcomes.
By considering these factors when designing knowledge dissemination strategies, practitioners and organisations can enhance the uptake of valuable information.
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.
For more information, contact Karien O’Kennedy at email@example.com.