Today we talk with Elizabeth Lusk, Co-Founder & KT Conceptual Design Lead for gestalt collective. She's located in Toronto, Ontario, Canada (lucky her). As she explains it, the gestalt collective "specializes in the development, implementation, and evaluation of strategies that help people and organizations better manage their knowledge assets. Committed to moving knowledge into action, together we identify new opportunities to maximize knowledge flow, drive performance improvements and optimize efficiencies to help people, groups, and organizations realize their potential."
Liz is the KT Conceptual Design Lead for the Canadian Dementia Resource and Knowledge Exchange (CDRAKE), and KTE Associate and Knowledge Broker for the Seniors Health Research Transfer Network (SHRTN). She's on LinkedIn and Twitter (@gestaltKT). Also, you can follow the CDRAKE project at @knowdementia.
The Five Questions.
#1. What got you interested in evidence?
Insatiable curiousity. I like to know. I like delving deeper to see if I agree with how someone arrived at a particular piece of ‘evidence’. I like having moments where people’s perspectives blow mine out of the water and I shift and grow.
What types of evidence do you work with most often (medical, business research, statistics, social science, etc.)?
Every type I can get my hands on. I really like exploring what people are saying across fields and disciplines – to see where there is overlap – check out the variety of perspectives and language to describe what are often similar challenges and phenomenon. As well, how people or groups are approaching challenges in differing contexts. I like making those connections and then sharing and discussing it with people and organizations.
If I have to pick a particular type of evidence that I work with most often it is in the realms of design and systems thinking; knowledge translation, exchange, brokering, mobilization; knowledge asset management; and communication. I am also increasingly sourcing and applying concepts from complexity science.
What is your involvement with evidence: applying it, advocating its use, researching/developing it, synthesizing/explaining/translating it, communicating it?
At present I’ve moved away from synthesis because I feel like by the time you do it properly it’s bordering on irrelevancy, or the political landscape changes swiftly and you miss opportunities. I’m finding the greatest success, at present (my ubiquitous qualifier), by telling stories and developing infographics to communicate evidence in a way that does not require expertise as it relates to the topic. Less time consuming, greater return on investment, greater impact.
That said, the landscape will change and I’ll need to continue to be creative in how I communicate evidence with the people I collaborate with. I am really into creating and / or identifying channels in support of knowledge exchange and flow as well as safe and supportive space to co-create. Helping people make connections to others who have experience with a particular evidence set is also proving to be rewarding. I like to help people, organizations, and networks think and act like knowledge brokers.
Where do you go looking for evidence, and what types of sources do you prefer? (formally published stuff such as journals, or something less formalized?)
I need and want to communicate with all the people I work with effectively. I aspire to be an evidence chameleon – someone who can discuss evidence with people using their language to enhance our capacity to connect and collaborate. For the academic in me, I read journal articles. I want to know what the ‘field’ is saying and whether there is consensus or debate. For the journalist in me, I read blogs.
I love reading individuals' unabated opinions and perspectives. I get a greater sense of the energy around a topic through non-peer reviewed evidence. I also love Twitter because you can find some great evidence curators. You can really leverage it as a continuous learning tool. I love books, too. Basically I'm always reading and enjoy lots of sources. I like reconciling the lot of them.
#2. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10= ‘It’s crystal clear.’ and 1=’We have no idea why things are happening.’, how would you describe the overall “state of the evidence” in your primary field?
If I consider my primary field to be knowledge translation, mobilization, and brokering, I believe the overall ‘state of the evidence’ is about a 6. I see this field as having a few ‘camps’ that speak about similar things being driven from different perspectives and for differing purposes. That can make it difficult for people to navigate.
Which of these situations is most common in your field?
a) Much of the evidence we need doesn’t yet exist.
b) People don't know about the evidence that is available.
c) People don't understand the evidence well enough to apply it.
d) People don’t follow the evidence because it's not the expectation.
A little ‘a’ mixed with a whole lot of ‘c’.
#3. Imagine a world where people can get the evidence they need, and exchange it easily and transparently. What barriers do you believe are preventing that world from becoming a reality?
We tend to build tools and mechanisms to access ‘evidence’ using a predominantly linear and library centric approach. We want to catalogue and codify everything – it’s all very binary in nature. People then become dependent on there being a go to place or source where the evidence is stored. Then they want it translated for them and to their context. This approach overestimates access to information and does not address connecting people; people who have experience with evidence and can therefore add dimensions to evidence that a document can never capture.
While there is great value in library science and I frequently benefit from libraries and librarians, we need to broaden our scope because it is limited as it relates to getting knowledge into practice. Simple access to information is not proving to be enough. What we need (in my humble opinion) is a complementary approach. We need to help people develop the skills and comfort required to work within our complex (and rich) systems for information sharing by giving them space to do so; start trusting one another again and shake off our stereotypes regarding people’s ‘roles’ and try and connect with the person in the role.
I think we can reach our knowledge potential if we shift our focus to the flow of knowledge rather than only capturing and storing knowledge. Archiving and codifying is good for historical purposes. We can always learn from our history. But if we could get better at exchanging knowledge by connecting with people then maybe we’ll unclog the system and re-energize people. Of course to ensure that quality evidence ‘flows’, we need to diligently help people understand and critically appraise evidence.
Where do you see technology making things better?
Technology helps us have global reach. I love technology. People can access people through multiple channels having never met them in person. It can help us broaden our perspectives and the lens through which we navigate evidence. Ultimately though, it’s the people behind the technology. Technology enhances access to people if it’s used as a learning tool - not just a marketing tool. When used as a learning tool, I believe the person on the other end is oriented to connecting rather than simply selling or pushing. A reciprocal relationship can be established.
With the variety of free online publishing platforms to choose from (e.g. Wordpress, Tumblr, Blogger, Digg, Twitter etc.), more and more people are able to afford and indulge in curating evidence and sharing it online. That said, there is a segment of people I run into through my work that lament over the need for one place to go online and that ‘it is all so confusing’.
My business partner and I were reflecting upon this and thought ‘imagine there was only one style and location to purchase jeans’, no matter what our body type or preference. That wouldn’t fly, right? By having quality options that address the variety of people’s information-seeking preferences, the hope is that one can find evidence tailored and organized in a way that is meaningful to them. When people connect with evidence in a way that resonates with them, they tend to apply it to their life and work. Certainly, critical appraisal skills apply here as well.
#4. How do you prefer to share evidence with people, and explain it to them? Do you have a systematic way of doing it, or is there a format that you follow?
This definitely depends on the person or group I’m sharing and discussing evidence with, as well as in what capacity I am working with them. My approach is always tailored and dynamic. For instance, if I’m partnering with a group as a knowledge broker – with the more formal people and groups – early on I mirror their communication style so we can ease into knowing one another and develop trust. I will share journal articles that are relevant to their work, and if I see something in the news I forward that along as well. With more established working relationships I share peer-reviewed articles from different disciplines, infographics, blogs, videos, and other sources of media I think may contribute to our work. Adding this dimension tends to energize our thoughts and creates space for us to innovate. I mobilize around that energy and when relevant, we begin a co-creation process.
What mistakes do you see people making when they explain evidence?
Injecting their bias, but that’s human nature, right? People also use jargon. I’m guilty of it myself. I’ll have in my head the terminology from whatever I read last that inspired me and I just really want to share it! I love language so it just slips out. I have to engage in some serious self-talk to remind myself not to do this with colleagues, mostly. I still go there though. The biggest thing I notice on the whole is that people default to speaking about evidence only in terms of the peer-reviewed literature. I respect peer-reviewed literature, however, there are a lot of people experiencing things, writing about their thoughts, and sharing through other channels. In the end, I wish for people to expand their notion of what constitutes ‘evidence’. Let’s shift our focus to helping people navigate evidence.
#5. What do you want your legacy to be?
I’d like to be remembered for being a flexible and thoughtful person. Wait – scratch that – that doesn’t sound how I meant it. Let’s try this again; an open-minded person who cares what you have to say and is willing to help.
Thanks, Elizabeth. I really enjoyed hearing your perspective - particularly on the need for navigating and appraising evidence, not just codifying and storing it.
Chime in. Would you like to be interviewed, or do you have someone to recommend? Drop me a note at tracy AT evidencesoup DOT com.