Information Relationships for Actionable Knowledge


The article “More than an answer: Information relationships for actionable knowledge” by Cross and Sproull (2004) focuses on exploring the impact of personal sources of information on actionable knowledge. The research question is formulated as follows: how does obtaining information from others affect actionable knowledge? (Cross & Sproull, 2004, p. 447). The authors provide substantial argumentation for their topic selection, claiming that people tend to rely on information received from others, and there is a need to study the ways managers can create and share knowledge with their employees. The above-mentioned research question seems to be rather interesting as it is related to the modern concerns of plenty of organizations. Having read the introduction, one may claim that I engaging and informative, thus making a reader proceed with the article. The review of the identified topic’s background and key aspects allows comprehending its core focus.


The given article contains two studies, each of which is well-organized and properly described. The first study focuses on the source of actionable knowledge in terms of information relationships and lacks a determined theoretical framework. Instead, the authors begin with specifying informants and settings of the research, pinpointing that they examined 40 managers from 12 workplaces (Cross & Sproull, 2004, p. 447). The second study presentation starts with the theory and hypotheses. The authors provide pertinent information and state that they utilized a dyadic model of knowledge along with the analytical framework, focusing on the characteristics of a recipient and a receiver. The above theoretical framework may be evaluated as elaborate and structured.

The core concepts of this article are identified properly. For instance, Cross and Sproull (2004) define the very notion of actionable knowledge, its five components, a simulation model, etc. There are seven hypotheses in the second study, which are logical and persuasive. The authors provide brief explanations to each of them based on the recent literature and personal observations. It should also be emphasized that critical references are used throughout the given article but not only in the theoretical part. There are more than 50 credible sources that are cited by the authors in a scholarly manner according to the accepted referencing style (Cross & Sproull, 2004, p. 460). At the beginning of the articles, it is customary to give several logical statements regarding the facts, and then in the course of reasoning to formulate new arguments based on the totality of the results of the authors’ observations and experiments. The above tendency may be traced in the given article as well. At the same time, a certain merger of the previously accumulated layer of scientific information proven by empirical means may be noted. The hypotheses and propositions are appropriate in the context of citations as well as the optimality of the number of references used by the authors. The information included in the theoretical part corresponds to the list of references provided at the end of the research.


As part of their empirical research, the authors applied both qualitative and quantitative research designs, thus creating a mixed-method study. In particular, among the applied methods, there are interviewing and a stratified sample survey. If respondents answered semi-structured interviews in the course of the first study, then they completed a questionnaire in terms of the second (Cross & Sproull, 2004, p. 452). Table 1 and Table 2 reflect participants’ characteristics and analysis elements regarding the second study. Considering that there are two studies based on different techniques, the above method seems to be appropriate. The contribution of the above type of research to the methodology of social studies is primarily connected with research designs that allow combining qualitative and quantitative methods within a single research project as well as relevant methodological principles. Also, mixed studies offer a new alternative to understanding the specifics of social research. In this case, the integration of two different types allows understanding the given them in an in-depth manner and analyzing it more thoroughly. Therefore, one may claim that the selected research design is consistent with the chosen analytical framework. It should also be stressed that the applied analytical strategies fit the research questions and theory as they are useful in revealing the core issues in terms of the given topic and pinpointing any strengths, weaknesses, implications, and limitations.

Speaking of sample and variables, one should state that the first study included 40 participants, while the second involved 118 persons. Taking into account that the paramount goal of the identified article was to establish the comprehension of how obtaining information may lead to actionable knowledge, it seems that the number of participants in the first study is insufficient since it is difficult to provide some conclusions and recommendations solely based on answers of 40 managers. Moe to the point, the fact that the mentioned study contained the minimum of participants is a vivid limitation that impedes potential generalizations. As for the second study, the authors explained that they contacted three offices and invited 120 potential respondents. Even though not all of them were able to participate in the study, the ultimate sample looks appropriate. Both samples are relevant to the hypotheses.

Cross and Sproull (2004) determine the independent and dependent variables. A source, a seeker, and their relationships compose the former, while five components were used as dependent variables: legitimation, problem reformulation, validation, solutions, and referrals (Cross & Sproull, 2004, p. 454). The presented variables directly correspond to hypotheses as they are useful in either verifying or rejecting them in the course of the study. One may note that this study has internal validity even though the authors did not identify it directly. The degree this article eliminated confounding variables is high, which allows concluding that internal validity is present. Nevertheless, it seems that it fails to ensure external validity since the article cannot be generalized at large due to an insufficient sample size. It would be better if the authors continue their scholarly research and further enlarge the sample in an attempt to provide a more elaborate study design.


The results are understandably presented by the authors so that it is quite comfortable for readers to trace their thoughts and conclusions. It seems critical to briefly provide some points regarding results. There are two discussion sections and two findings after each of the studies. Reviewing their work, the authors pinpoint the fact that they discovered the importance of establishing actionable knowledge by seeking information from managers. At the same time, they emphasize the roles of five components of actionable knowledge and conclude that Solutions, referrals,

and problem reformulation are most significant among others (Cross & Sproull, 2004, p. 458). Table 4 also can be observed as the one proving the above results. Thus, a reader receives well-designed findings and results that are supported by credible arguments, tables, excerpts from interviews, and so on. The only point that seems to be uncovered is a lack of a common conclusion that would integrate both studies and show the connection between them. Although the introduction to the given article demonstrates the necessity for both studies, it seems to be more appropriate to emphasize the above fact at the end as well. In other words, it would be better if the authors enumerate the key points one more time, thus assisting readers in remembering key implications and insights.

There are no alternative explanations for the results of the studies conducted. Perhaps, the mentioned peculiarity may be justified by non-ambiguous data that was collected from respondents. One may suggest that alternative explanations are more characteristic to medical or nursing researchers, yet they may also be utilized in social and organizational studies.


With this aforementioned information in mind, it becomes clear that the article has both strengths and weaknesses, the clarification of which helps to comprehend the authors’ ideas better. For instance, such string points as the sample size of the second study, well-designed and logical hypotheses, and the relevance of the topic under research may be noted. The combination of the above strengths allows considering the article as one of a scholarly fashion contributing to the evidence. As part of the ever-growing body of evidence, the given article outlines the relationships between the information seeker and the sender and specifies the role of five components that were identified earlier in this critical review. The above statement demonstrates the focal contribution of the article and its main strengths. Also, the reference list and the use of citations are excellent.

Along with the article’s advantages, one should pay attention to drawbacks. It should be stressed that too small sample size in the first study and a lack of the conclusion is the key weak points of the reviewed article. The primary limitation refers to the inability to generalize the findings to a broad context. Also, the fact that the authors examine actionable knowledge from a one-sided perspective should be mentioned. Nevertheless, the mentioned limitation provides essential grounds for further research, while the article’s implications may be used for the detailed exploration of actionable knowledge in terms of one or another context. For instance, one may assume working on investigating certain companies or countries to identify their specifics and the role of actionable knowledge. As a result, it would be possible to eliminate the above weaknesses and limitations. In this regard, it becomes evident that the article stimulates though and future discussion.

This article successfully passes so what test as it makes a value-added contribution to the current research by presenting new information that may be utilized by both scholars and managers. The implications are directly mentioned for both practical use and scientific perspective. In particular, they note that managers may benefit from understanding how relationships and information seeing affect their performance and that of their employees. As for the scholarly community, it is advantageous to determine learning and information sharing biases to eliminate and prevent them.


Cross, R., & Sproull, L. (2004). More than an answer: Information relationships for actionable knowledge. Organization Science, 15(4), 446-462.