ABCs of KMPersonality types and acceptance of technical knowledge management systems (TKMS)

Addressing generational differences in the adoption of technical knowledge management systems [Personality & TKMS series]

This is part 9 of a series of articles featuring edited portions of Dr. Maureen Sullivan’s PhD dissertation.

Much research has been conducted in the area of observing generational differences in work values1 2. However, this research is limited in that little exists on the examination of generational differences in personality and workplace motivational drivers. Despite past research studies that examined the motivational drivers of generational differences in personality, e.g. Twenge3 4 5, these studies concentrated more on the larger generational differences and not specifically on the workplace.

Generational differences research at work has focused on work values. For instance, Brown6, George and Jones7 stated that “work values refer to an employee‘s attitudes regarding what is right, as well as attitudes about what an individual should expect in the workplace” 8.

Although there may be relationship between an individual‘s personality preferences and motivational drivers as influenced by their work values9, it is important to understand the difference between these concepts.

Software vendors must develop technical knowledge management systems (TKMSs) to ensure that all generations of users can effectively use the systems and perceive the systems as useful. Prensky10 described the different generations of digital technology users as digital natives and digital immigrants. Digital natives are young people who grew up with the use of digital technology in every facet of life, whereas digital immigrants are people “who were not born into the digital world but have later in life become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of digital technology”.

Prensky asserted:

The importance of the distinction is this: As digital immigrants learn—like all immigrants, some better than others—to adapt to their environment, they always retain, to some degree, their accent, that is, their foot in the past. The digital immigrant accent can be seen in such things as turning to the Internet for information second rather than first, or in reading the manual for a program rather than assuming that the program itself will teach us to use it.

These generational differences may influence the successful adoption of TKMSs, and developers must incorporate generational differences in the design and functionality of the TKMSs.

Next edition: Personality types.


  1. Smola, K. W., & Sutton, C. D. (2002). Generational differences: Revisiting generational work values for the new millennium. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 23(4), 363-382. doi:10.1002/job.147
  2. Yu, H. C., & Miller, P. (2003). The generation gap and cultural influence – a Taiwan empirical investigation. Cross Cultural Management, 10(3), 23-41.
  3. Twenge, J. M. (2000). The age of anxiety? Birth cohort change in anxiety and neuroticism, 1952-1993. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 79(6), 1007-1021. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.79.6.1007
  4. Twenge, J. M. (2001a). Birth cohort changes in extraversion: A cross-temporal metaanalysis, 1966-1993. Personality and Individual Differences, 30(5), 735-748. doi:10.1016/S0191-8869(00)00066-0
  5. Twenge, J. M. (2001b). Changes in assertiveness in response to status and roles: A crosstemporal meta-analysis, 1931-1993. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(1), 133-145. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.81.1.133
  6. Brown, M. A. (1976). Values – a necessary but neglected ingredient of motivation on the job. Academy of Management Review, 1(4), 15-21. doi:10.2307/257721
  7. George, J. M., & Jones, G. R. (1999). Understanding and managing organizational behavior (3rd ed.). NY: Addison-Wesley Publishing.
  8. Wong, M., Gardiner, E., Lang, W., & Coulon, L. (2008). Generational differences in personality and motivation; Do they exist and what are the implications for the workplace? Journal of Managerial Psychology, 23(8), 878-886. doi:10.1108/02683940810904376
  9. Ashley, N., Bartram, D., & Schoonman, W. (2001, October). Values at work – the relationship with personality, motivation and corporate culture. Paper presented at the British Psychological Society (BPS) Occupational Psychology Conference, Blackpool, England.
  10. Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6. doi:10.1108/10748120110424816
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Maureen Sullivan

Dr. Maureen Sullivan is an information technology official in the US federal government workspace. She also teaches technology courses at a Maryland community college. Dr. Sullivan is continuing her research in technical knowledge management systems.

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