Testing conventional wisdom with evidence-based management: the role of information literacy. Turner, Braaksma, Dakshinamurti & De Jaeger
Testing conventional wisdom
with evidence-based management:
The role of information literacy in a
Limerick, Republic of Ireland
Nick Turner, Amy De Jaeger, Betty Braaksma, and Ganga
University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
– What is “conventional wisdom”?
– What is evidence-based management?
– How does information literacy relate to it?
• Conventional Wisdom Project:
– Description of the UM Asper School of Business course
– Research questions
• The students speak
• Practical implications
• Questions? Comments?
An old Irish saying…
Is leir don saol e an firinne
“Everybody knows the truth”
A familiar example of
"Internet-savvy students are far ahead of
What is Evidence-Based
1. Face the hard facts, and build a culture in which people are
encouraged to tell the truth, even if it is unpleasant.
2. Be committed to "fact based" decision making -- which means
being committed to getting the best evidence and using it to
3. Treat your organization as an unfinished prototype --
encourage experimentation and learning by doing.
4. Look for the risks and drawbacks in what people recommend
-- even the best medicine has side effects.
5. Avoid basing decisions on untested but strongly held beliefs,
what you have done in the past, or on uncritical
"benchmarking" of what winners do.
Asking the Unasked Questions
“look beyond the accepted conventional wisdom
with a different perspective by asking the
• Fundamental to all IL standards is the idea of
• We teach students to evaluate published
information for accuracy, currency, origin,
bias, authorship, etc.
• What if we tested conventional wisdom the
HRIR 2440 Human Resource Management:
• introduces undergraduate students to organizational
functions such as staffing, recruiting, training,
compensation, the design of work, and health and
safety at work.
• students can take it with at least one year of
university and after admission to the Business
• compulsory for BCom students = everyone from 2nd
year new students to 4th year actuarial science
students can be taking it
The Research Questions
• Which conventional wisdom beliefs do
• How do students test conventional
• What role does information literacy play
in students’ approach to making sense
of the problem and the evidence?
• Students worked in groups of four to six
• Selected an HR issue facing a real life
• Interviewed the manager
• Proceeded through a series of exercises to:
– articulate a research question based on the
– search out research in the management research
– attempt to reconcile the manager’s ‘conventional
wisdom’ with the research literature
• Meetings with Course instructor (Nick), Asper School
librarian (Ganga), IL Coordinator (Betty) in the fall,
sketching up the project flow chart
• Two IL sessions at beginning of course with Ganga
• Nick, Ganga & Betty facilitate peer group check-
• Ganga assisted students with literature searching
and further analysis of their topics
Understanding the lived
experience of managers
Making sense of research
•What issues came out of interviews?
•How do students recognize a research question?
•How do they write one?
•How do they find evidence in the literature?
•How do they interpret/evaluate the evidence?
Does the evidence support the
managers’ conventional wisdom?
• Used a combination of instructor observation and post-project
written reflections from a sub-sample of 91 students.
• Analysis of the reflections suggests that students learned much
about the nature of evidence and reconciling managers’
conventional wisdom with the best evidence derived from the
social science literature.
• The importance of information literacy was demonstrated in the
observations that students made about their perceived inability
to read and interpret social scientific research and the
pragmatic (often technically-related) difficulties in accessing
high-quality sources of social scientific research.
The Students Speak:
Literature Search and synthesis
The Students Speak:
Critical Thinking skills
“The first thing I learned was that there is an
infinite number of research questions that
could be asked, the problem is choosing one
that will lead your research into a meaningful
answer. For every idea in researching, there
is a case study to go along, the challenge lies
in choosing which data is sound. “
The Students Speak:
“The most important and valid thing that I have
learned from the wisdom assignment is not to
rely on information that you get from one
source. I used to believe that if I have
researched something or if a manager who
has a lot of experience is telling me
something then it’s reliable and valid. After
doing this project, it has been evident that
sometimes what conventional wisdom tells
you isn’t necessarily reliable and valid.”
The Students Speak:
Basic understanding of research
• “I learned the importance of question asking. The questions we
asked in our interview gave us a completely new and
interesting subject to explore. The questions we asked during
our research helped us gain new perspective on our subject.
Asking the right questions is very important to research as well
as to problem solving, something any manager must do.”
• ” To get reliable and valid information from internet and other
sources and to find out the extent of their validity. To relate the
information which our group got from the manager to the
research that we have done.”
• management education instructors can
introduce similar learning experiences into
their own classroom settings.
• practicing managers can use social science
research as a tool to enable evidence-based
• management librarians can introduce
information literacy into management classes
or during reference consultations with
In 1999 a European study by IDC examined…the
"knowledge work deficit," and concluded that the cost of
intellectual rework, substandard performance and
inability to find knowledge resources was $5,000 per
worker per year.
In 2005, an Aslib study found that “UK SMEs (small and
medium-sized businesses) wasted over 3.7 billion
in terms of time wasted through inefficient use of the
internet as a research tool”
In 2007 the Lexis-Nexis Workplace Productivity Survey
found that “white collar professionals spend an average
of 2.3 hours daily conducting online research, with one
in ten spending four hours or more on an average day.”
Practical Implications – Real world
An old Irish saying
“Though wisdom is good in the beginning
it is better at the end.”