The role of superior human capital in creating and maintaining competitive advantage in the global marketplace is an increasing priority. The problem for business leaders is that despite the purported benefits of superior human capital, contemporary human capital assessments prove incapable of reliably identifying the best employees to hire, promote, or retain. Research into the use of mental models as a means to differentiate expert and novice performers suggested that a simple and reliable means of eliciting and comparing mental models might address this gap. Prior studies following the Structural Dimensional Analysis of Mental Representations (SDA-M) methodology produced reliable and repeatable differentiation of expert and novice performers in professional sports, but had not been applied to the knowledge-work driving today’s businesses. The purpose of this quantitative, quasi-experimental study was to evaluate the use of SDA-M in the identification and classification of expert knowledge workers. Specifically, this research sought to answer two specific research questions concerning the use of SDA-M: what is the similarity of expert knowledge worker mental models produced via SDA-M analysis; and, what is the similarity of novice knowledge worker mental models when compared to those of experts? Following the SDA-M methodology, customer support personnel purposefully selected to represent expert (n = 6) and novice (n = 6) performers completed a sorting task designed to elicit and record individual mental models of a critical job task. Experts were selected from senior-level positions with a minimum of five years organizational tenure; novices were selected from entry-level positions with no more than one year of organizational tenure. The individual mental models where then compared using Qsplit to determine the degree of similarity between them. SDA-M analysis proved ineffective at differentiating expert and novice performers on the study stimulus task. Although SDA-M analysis differentiated subjects into two groups, these groups did not align with the ex ante definitions of expert and novice performers. Additional analysis suggested an incompatibility between the job task selected for eliciting mental models and the criteria used in sampling; industry tenure proved a better indicator of expert performance of the study task than organizational tenure. Although the results of this study can only be considered inconclusive, SDA-M analysis demonstrated the ability to clearly differentiate participants based on the structure and consistency of their mental model constructions. Continued research into the use of SDA-M as a means to identify superior human capital is warranted.
|Commitee:||Dunfee, Charlene, Jess, Donald|
|Department:||Business and Technology|
|School Location:||United States -- Minnesota|
|Source:||DAI-A 78/06(E), Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Educational tests & measurements, Business administration, Quantitative psychology, Educational Support Services|
|Keywords:||Expertise, Mental models|
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