Jan 15, 2011

Research Ideas

Note: This is a copy of my posting for one of my classes, Research Methods.

Interested for more than 20 years in the idea of tacit knowledge transfer in industrial fields, namely oil, gas, and petrochemical, no matter what sideline studies I pursue, I find myself coming back to this topic again and again. Although I am not yet sure how to organise this semester's study, I am thinking of focusing on a project that I am currently directing in my company. (Note: in a small company like ours, "directing" means heading up as well as conducting, following-up on, and reporting. :-) I will start by explaining this current project, as opposed to explaining the research project, in the hopes that I will be able to focus my research in an area that supports and aids in what I am pursuing "in real life".

Our company is owned by a group of landowners in the Southern Highlands Province (SHP) of Papua New Guinea (PNG). This group of people, these Southern Highlanders, have a reputation, even here in PNG, for being aggressive and often warlike. In my dealings with them over the past year, I tend to view them, instead, as being a highly passionate people. I am currently pursuing a project of helping convert the workforce (currently 175 people) into a cohesive company that is guided by processes and procedures. This is in an attempt to garner some of the unique business opportunities that have developed here in PNG dealing with such companies as ExxonMobil, Oil Search Limited, Santos, and the like. My current project is in establishing some Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for use by a workforce composed of an extremely diverse population. Many of the workers do not speak English, and a number of them are illiterate. Most of them also grew up in the villages where everything from shoes to computers were of little use.

[Remember, I am describing my work project here as I have not yet developed the research project idea fully.] I would like to start with a survey of company personnel to establish an overall view of the literacy capabilities. I have already written five SOPs, my pilot group of artefacts, and have had them converted to Tok Pisin, the local pidgin English that is spoken, as a second language, by most of the national population. Next week, I will be sending these documents back to the field to be "tested" by the workforce. Not only am I looking for accuracy and correctness, but I am trying to answer a number of other questions.

  1. Do these procedures really add any value?
  2. Should the two translations be presented side-by-side or as separate documents?
  3. Is there real value in having the two translations?
  4. What processes can we use to ensure the illiterate members of the workforce receive and retain the necessary information?
  5. What direction should this project take me next?

I hope to be able to develop a research project out of this larger, more complex field project sometime over the next week. But I am VERY interested in the input any of you would like to provide!

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