Knowledge Communication Problems


Have you ever found yourself in a situation in which you needed to get to the bottom of something and then convey the results  to a person or group of people? Did everything go as planned? Did "they" get it, or not?

If not, next time you may want to use the following checklist (including some problems to be aware of when checking them off):



Do I have the right expert(ise) to analyze this?
  • Prophet syndrome
  • In group out group problem
Did I articulate clearly what I need to know?
  • Anomalous State of Knowledge
  • Big Picture Problem
  • Common Ground
Did I elicit the right insights?
  • Paralysis by analysis
  • Information overload
Did I (you and your expert) optimize our mutual understanding
  • Hidden Profile
  • Cassandra Syndrome
  • Groupthink
  • Expert Paradox
Did we assign the right actions?
  • Knowing Doing Gap
This checklist will certainly not solve all your knowledge communication problems but will at least make you aware of some of the issues, problems and challenges you may face!


Prophet syndrome: managers have a preference for outside experts. [Menon & Pfeffer, 2003]
Ingroup-outgroup: managers prefer to consult with like-minded peers rather than other professional groups [Blau, 1977]
ASK (anomalous state of knowledge): Managers often do not have the terminology to articulate their needs to experts [Belkin,1980 ]
Big picture problem: managers and experts deviate from the main issue and get lost in details. [Harkins, 1999]
Common ground: managers and experts are not aware of their differing background knowledge. [Clark and Schäfer, 1989, Olson & Olson, 2000 ]
Paralysis by analysis: experts have difficulties in concluding their analysis and proposing solutions [Langley, A. (1995) ,Lenz, R. T., Lyles, M. A., 1985, ]
Information Overload: experts are inundated with detail information and loose sight of the main objectives of their assignment [O’Reilly, 1980].
Hidden Profile: managers and experts only focus on their already identified mutual knowledge and neglect new insights. [Stasser & Titus, 2003]
Cassandra Syndrome: the managers ignore the experts’ warning and advice, but later on blame the expert if losses occur. [Mikalachki, 1983]
Groupthink: managers and/or experts ignore evidence or do not use available knowledge fully in order to preserve group cohesion. [Janis, 1982]
Expert paradox: the experts are not able to convey what they know to managers because they cannot articulate it in terms that management can understand. [Johnson, 1983]
Knowing-Doing Gap: managers and experts know what to do, but cannot execute it due to internal competition or wrong incentives [Pfeffer & Sutton, 2000]



Original Concept of Knowledge Communication:

Martin J. Eppler, Jeanne Mengis, University of Lugano (USI);

Other sources:

Belkin, N.J. (1980) Anomalous states of knowledge as a basis for information retrieval. Canadian Journal of Information Science, 5, 133-143.
Blau, P.M. 1977. Inequality and heterogeneity: A primitive theory of social structure. New York: Free Press.
Clark, H. H., & Schaefer, F. S. (1989) Contributing to discourse. Cognitive Science, 13, 259–294.24
Janis, I. L. (1982) Groupthink, Psychological Studies of Policy Decisions and Fiascoes, Houghton Mifflin, Boston?
Johnson, P. E. (1983). What kind of expert should a system be? Journal of Medicine and Philosophy, 8, 77-97.
Mc Leod, J.M., Chaffee, S.H. (1973) Interpersonal Approaches to Communication Research, American Behavorial Scientist 16(4), 469-499.
Menon, T. & Pfeffer, J. (2003) Valuing Internal Knowledge vs. External Knowledge: Explaining the Preference for Outsiders, Management Science, 49, 497-513
Mikalachki, A. (1983) Does anyone listen to the boss? Business Horizons, January-February, 18-24.
O’Reilly, C. A. (1980) Individuals and information overload in organizations: Is more necessarily better? Academy of Management Journal, 23, 684-696
Starbuck, W.H. (1992) Learning by Knowledge-Intensive Firms, Journal of Management Studies, 29, 147-175.
Stasser, G. & Titus, W. (2003) Hidden profiles: a brief history. Psychological Inquiry, 14,304-313