An empirical investigation of the nature of management development with particular emphasis on the influence of learning styles on the levels of accumulated managerial tacit knowledge in the Malaysian Public Service
This study explored the broad learning patterns associated with the acquisition of managerial tacit knowledge. The study then proceeded to examine whether levels of accumulated managerial tacit knowledge (LAMTK) may be associated with managers' learning styles and/or the extent to which a person's style is consonant with the context of their work environment. The possibility that deliberate learning strategies normally associated with formal rather than informal learning would be unrelated to LAMTK was also examined. The research employed a cross-sectional, mixed-method approach incorporating both qualitative interview and survey data collection. For the qualitative element, interviews were conducted with 14 public sector managers based on a method developed by Nestor-Baker (1999). For the quantitative element, survey data were collected from 356 public sector managers attending management development training courses at the Malaysian National Institute of Public Administration. Respondents completed a questionnaire designed to measure tacit knowledge based on Stemberg et al's (2000) Tacit Knowledge Inventory for Managers, learning styles based on Geiger et al's (1993) normative version of Kolb's Learning Style Inventory, learning strategy based on Warr & Downing's (2000) Learning Strategies Questionnaire, and a range of other self developed items. The interviews revealed that most managers were unaware of the learning associated with the acquisition of tacit knowledge, as it occurs in an unplanned and unintentional manner. Several adult learning principles such as reflection and learning from experience emerged from the analyses. While learning styles were found to be significant in predicting LAMTK, a rather surprising finding was that learning strategies, believed to be associated with declarative as opposed to tacit knowledge, were also related to LAMTK. Based on these findings it was concluded that the process of tacit knowledge acquisition involves the interaction of learning that takes place in both formal and informal settings. Outcomes of the research suggest that in management development initiatives, formal approaches should be blended with informal approaches in order to achieve effective learning.