The APQC Blog

How Knowledge Collaboration Affects Engineers’ Expertise Development

I recently spoke with Silky Wong, a structural engineer at Fluor with an interest in improving knowledge sharing and collaboration in the engineering discipline. She is involved in research on this topic through Texas Tech University. If you are an engineer currently working in a non-academic environment, please consider taking the survey associated with her research.

Why is knowledge sharing and collaboration so important for today’s engineers?

Silky: Globalization not only affects the physical locations of engineering services and construction, but also the social and economic patterns, as well as how we collaborate at work. There is a need to understand how practicing engineers’ expertise can be developed via knowledge collaboration instead of traditional training.

What are the biggest challenges you see in terms of engineers sharing knowledge?

Silky: After I presented on Developing Experts at Fluor at APQC’s 2015 KM Conference, I continued to investigate how an organization can develop its engineering experts through internal and external collaboration programs. Some examples of challenges of knowledge collaboration among practicing engineers include:

  • They do not have enough trust to collaborate.
  • They do not see support from others or management.
  • They are not motivated in the way that they want to be.

Tell me about your research into knowledge collaboration among engineers.

Silky: To help better understand relationships between knowledge collaboration and expertise development, Texas Tech University is now conducting research on “Investigating the Influence of Knowledge Collaboration on Practicing Engineers’ Expertise Development,” The principal investigator is Dr.  Jennifer Cross, Associate Professor of the Industrial, Manufacturing, and Systems Engineering Department at Texas Tech University, and I am the co-investigator of this research.

The research focuses on (1) examining the types of knowledge collaboration enablers and behaviors that are statistically significant to the development of experts, and  (2) identifying potential barriers that prevent knowledge collaboration between experienced and entry-level/immediate-level employees.

The survey will be open until March 1. I have also posted details and an FAQ via my LinkedIn page. Survey participants may choose to be entered for a chance to win a USD $100 Amazon gift card with an estimated 1/100 chance of winning.