Why there is a lack of engagement with evidence-based practice

Why there is a lack of engagement with evidence-based practice

lack of engagement with evidence-based practice

Why there is a lack of engagement with evidence-based practice by some professionals and organisations…

 One of the problems many organisations wrestle with is how to get professionals and employees to engage more with research evidence. A raft of previous studies have shown that evidence-based practice significantly improves problem diagnosis, decision-making, adaptability and flexibility, as well as a whole range of organisational outcomes. So, given the amount of evidence to show the benefits of evidence-based practice, why do some professionals, employees and organisations fail to engage with it?

This research briefing was sent to members in July 2017 (a year ago) 

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A new (2017) study has reviewed the current research into the lack of engagement with evidence-based practice and found that  there are a variety of reasons for this.


Knowledge transfer

Previous studies into what is known as Knowledge Transfer which refers to the practice of finding and using properly sourced research evidence to help to make decisions and inform their actions and practice has found a variety of reasons for this lack of engagement with evidence-based practice including:


  1. The perception of complexity of evidence-based practice
  2. The inability or time it takes to extract practical learning from research articles
  3. The perceived urgency of operational issues, meaning that people don’t have the time in organisations to research the evidence base.
  4. Lack of knowledge and skills of people in organisations to be able to find and extract the knowledge contained in the research.
  5. Previous experience of encountering academic research.
  6. Previous experience of the situation overwhelming the need for further evidence – (my previous experience must be right).
  7. Not knowing that there is relevant evidence available (lack of knowledge or exposure).
  8. Personal opinion about the evidence.
  9. Reluctance to risk relationships in the organisation by introducing research evidence that may be contrary to current beliefs.
  10. Lack of availability of resources and access to the evidence.
  11. The individual’s perception of their own professional identity.
  12. Poor leadership.
  13. The pervading culture and philosophy of the organisation.
  14. Lack of funding.
  15. Psychological and organisational inertia – no real push or drive to make the effort to find the evidence or change practices and the tendency of systems to continue to do the same thing, regardless of change.




Unifying factor


As the researchers discovered, the lack of engagement with evidence-based practice is a complex and multi-faceted issue. However, when examined, they found that often there was one factor which appears to sit underneath all of these complex reasons for a lack of knowledge transfer in organisations: a singular lack of positive experience and emotion connected with using an evidence-based approach.


Positive engagement 

Positive emotions provide a powerful and compelling intrinsic motivation for action. Previous research has found that positive emotion can promote critical engagement, creative thinking, problem-solving, memory retention, focus and a desire for action and engagement.

The positive emotions the researchers were interested included:

  • Interest
  • Joy
  • Pride
  • Excitement etc.


positive engagement


Practical wisdom

It is already known that such positive emotions increase thinking and action, help to build intellectual resources and broaden people’s perspectives and ability to take in and use information. Positive emotion has also been found to promote what is known as ‘phronesis’. Phronesis means practical wisdom derived from learning that leads to breakthrough thinking and creativity.

Negative emotions, on the other hand, have been found to curtail action, narrow thinking, reduce creativity and information seeking, and tend to push people to make abrupt decisions and actions.


Shared aims 

 The study also found that individuals, teams and organisations that tend to embrace evidence-based practice and engage in knowledge transfer are significantly and statistically more likely to:

  1. Have the aim of making the best available decisions
  2. Promote and value learning as an asset and are significantly more learning orientated
  3. Share knowledge and learning
  4. Create common practices
  5. Explore issues and experiment
  6. Create a virtuous spiral of learning and positive affect or emotion connected to the generation of knowledge
  7. Understand that knowledge is dynamic and contextual, that knowledge is valid, but changes and applies differently from situation to situation
  8. Capture, reflect on and critique new knowledge as a cultural dimension.


learning orientation



The researchers found that it is vitally important to create a positive set of emotions around learning and knowledge transfer in order to get evidence-based practice off the ground and that this should be a primary concern for anyone trying to promote and encourage evidence-based practice. Dealing with a lack of engagement with evidence-based practice is important if your organisation wants to improve decision-making and other outcomes.


Reference – available to members only (log in to see the reference and download all other resources in the downloads area free)

The Essential Guide to Evidence-Based Practice


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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page