Does Corporate Failure = PKM?

Steve over on the Reflexions blog try’s to answer the question

Does Corporate Failure = PKM? posed by Nick Milton and I must admit I find myself agreeing with Steve, who has a few points of agreement with Nick.  That is up until the point where Nick is quoted as saying:

If the company is doing Knowledge Management properly, and making communal knowledge transparently available at the point of need, then you would not need PKM.

and Steve responds:

Here’s where I think Nick is spot on

At this point we diverge and here’s why:

  1. The personal knowledge that I need to manage is not and never will be the same as any pool of knowledge held by my company, although there will be overlaps and gaps in both
  2. My personal knowledge spans several different companies, and with 60%+ of the content of my knowledge repository being publicly available information, I don’t want it locked up in some company specific silo
  3. In the last 10 years of working for my current company if I’d put my trust in the companies well funded knowledge management infrastructure, it would now be fragmented across dozens of different systems. Some of these different generations of the enterprise system and some functional or project specific repositories that all existed with sound justification
  4. A significant proportion of my personal knowledge management system is meaningful only to me based on a context that only I understand, with a subtlety that I’ve never seen in the meta-data support of any enterprise KM system
  5. Locating the specific “thing I want” in my personal system relies on many clues that don’t exist in enterprise systems and a narrow search scope “just the stuff I’ve tagged, linked, saved or created or modified”.  I don’t see an easy way to create this search scope in another way
  6. I’ve been an avid contributor to enterprise KM at the same time as I’ve built my personal knowledge, but I’ve contributed a small subset to the enterprise, because much of my personal stuff would be clutter to the enterprise, lacking the connections and context that make it knowledge to me
  7. I’d never consider my personal knowledge as a substitute for enterprise PKM or Google, but I find many people who use google or enterprise search confuse being able to find “something” on any topic, with being able to find the “specific assets” I want in the way that I do in my PKM system
  8. One final point is that some of my best work and best external knowledge has been dropped from issued versions of work at the enterprise level, because it didn’t survive a scope cut or a change in customer requirements or didn’t convince some approver.  I still have that stuff. Unissued stuff still has huge value to me, but would quite rightly confuse the enterprise in a big way

In summary I’m all for enterprise KM, but PKM is a complement to it.  A good KM strategy should see itself in this capacity too.  Take a look at the “my life bits” research to see the direction that PKM is going, taken to this extreme I don’t see anyone suggesting that all “my life bits” belong in the enterprise KM system.  Rather it see’s PKM as an extension of the brain.

PKM is one of the most neglected areas within the enterprise, no surprise that there’s such a rich eco system of tools being created directly targeted at the individual, with many now starting to integrate with the individuals network of contacts, to create a personal knowledge network.

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

6 Responses

  1. Steve Barth says:

    Perfect! you said a bunch of things I should have said. (I was too busy masking sarcasm in politesse) bravo!

    You simply don’t have the right to make all of your knowledge public or leave the decision up to the corporation… such as candid thoughts sent to you in a confidential email.

    Your experience and insights span mutliple employers or clients (serially or in parallel)… but your trusted relationships do too. Brining in old contacts on a new job cannot abdicate responsibility for treating them with respect.

    The context and value of personal collections is often lost on upload… and just imposes more information overload for others

    And yes, above all, see them as complementary, not contradictory. But I think the “failure” thing comes up because few enterprise KM systems come anywhere close to holding up their end of the bargain. It isn’t so much that p[ersonal systems are better, but as personal systems we can adapt them to our needs so much faster.

  2. Steve Richards says:

    Absolutely spot on Steve, in discussion today on this topic it also struck me that individuals have radically different approaches to PKM that suits differences in their role, age, memory, personaility, type of activity, type of knowledge etc. PKM allows them to accomodate these differences, often enterprise KM tries to enforce a single way on everyone.


  3. I have immense interest in this topic.

    Broadly speaking, in enterprise context, the “knowledge” we all deal come in 3 areas, i.e. communal (or common org knowledge for all staff), learning and the specific work. There will be great overlap between enterprise and individual, especially for the latter two areas.

    In my opinion, for category #1 common org knowledge, if corp KM is well done, there should be minimal effort needed by the individual. This can be the acid test for the effectiveness of corp KM.

    For category #2, the KM solutions should be designed to support group-based learning and sharing (like community blog), and yet it is able to recognise the individiual who contributes, and to allow individual to further organise and use as though it is integral part of one’s PKM. Then, we are close to integrating the two.

    For category #3, it is a toughest area of the three. The KM solution should allow work information to be systematically captured by all involved to provide a shared situation picture for effective collaboration, and yet allow inidividual to manage and view information in personalised manner, e.g. to-do list can be automatically derived from various workgroup one involves in. By working on personalised view, one can still seamlessly contribute to various workgroups.

    Therefore, the PKM is not detached from corp KM. I see the challenge is how to gel the two into a holistic one, and remain flexible for evoluation.

    My 2-cent’s worth.


  4. Steve Richards says:

    @kc I fully agree that “PKM is not detached from corp KM”, I think the point I was making was that PKM was not a response to a failed enterprise KM, it was a complement to it. Since PKM is so key to the individual where possible KM should be achieved as a side effect of PKM.

    Techniques for achieving this might be to use blogs as a PKM tool, but aggregate, comment, tag, search etc multiple blogs to create enterprise KM assets, in pretty much the way the internet works. Another example might be to automatically flow files into enterprise repositories associated with their tags, when they get a status of issued etc. A final example might be to allow the enterprise KM system to be cc’d on emails.

    I like your 3 types of knowledge structure, but common, learning and work seem to be missing at least one area, investment. I invest time and effort in my PKM because it’s an investment for the future, not simply to capture what I am working on or learning now. Investment in this sense is not learning, however it might be used for learning in the future.


  5. Nick Milton says:

    “I don’t want it locked up in some company specific silo ”

    I think if the alternative to PKM is “locking knowledge up in some company specific silo” – then this is also a failure of corporate KM. Locking anything up is silos is “failed KM”. Anthing that only keeps knowledge explicit, in systems and infrastructures, is failed.

    Here’s an alternative way to look at it. Think of corporate KM that is not failed, and that priovides a rich set of networks, tools and of conversations, where your peers round the world can bounce knowledge off each other to build a shared understanding that is far in excess of what you personally could achieve.

    Would you not join in, and freely add your knowledge to the mix?

  1. April 19, 2014

    […] or knowledge archives that often had a life much shorter than the knowledge they contained, I debated this issue back in 2009.  Had I not maintained my own PKM system in parallel to the enterprise systems I […]

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