Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Does age have any influence over knowledge sharing activity?

Here is a really interesting set of data on age and behaviour in knowledge processes, taken from this blog (now missing)

The authors of the blog draw out various conclusions based on this data, but for me, there is only one real conclusion.

I can see no significant difference at all in knowledge sharing behaviour with age, with the exception of the over 60s. Over the rest of the graph, there seems to be no significant correlation between age and sharing behaviour. The 55-59 year olds (baby boomers) score higher than the 35-39 years old’s (Gen X) in many categories, for example.

Let's look at the TOTAL score for the categories (I have had to try to estimate the scores from the graph)and let's assume this total score is an indicator of total willingess to seek and share

20-24, 25.5
25-29, 25.05
30-34, 23.95
35-39, 25.3
40-44, 25.55
45-49, 25.15
50-54, 26
55-59, 24.5
60-64, 21.5

Now, take away the last point, and tell me if there is any trend! With the over 60s removed, all the figures are within plus or minus 5% of the mean.

To me, this data shows there is no statistically significant age trend when it comes to knowledge seeking and sharing, apart from over 60s, and I would want to know more about this older sample set before judging whether their result is significant. (In the UK, for example, women over 60 would mostly be retired, except in special circumstances. So maybe the over 60s are disproportionately senior, or disproportionately from a particular country, or disproportionately male)

The conclusion that there is no statistically significant age trend when it comes to knowledge seeking and sharing may be counter-intuitive to those who assume baby boomers behave differently from Gen X and Gen Y when it comes to knowledge sharing, but is broadly in line with a similar study done by shell.

(The demographics behind the study are being published, but I believe there are only 4 people in the youngest category, and only 19 in the oldest, so both of these points must come with larger error bars. Also note that the axis of this graph starts at 2. Plot it with the axis starting at zero, and the lack of trends becomes even more obvious).


Nick Milton said...

The authors of the study from which this plot was taken have answered some of my concerns in a comment to the blog post. Please see here for details.


Nick Milton said...

The study authors reassure me that they will eventually publish the dataset, so we will be able to see whether the small variations seen in the data fall within the sampling error bars, and also check on what's up with the over 60s

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