Is Personal Knowledge Management Becoming Popular Again?

2014-03-15 12.40.27I’ve always been a huge advocate of the need for enterprises to focus on Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) before they even consider enterprise knowledge management.  Enterprise Knowledge Management just being a thin skim of services that enable discovery of information that’s promoted from PKM.  That promotion can be very light weight, for example search, or slightly less so through tagging, popularity tracking etc.

For decades this has not been a particularly popular view as enterprises pushed employees to store their precious knowledge assets in collaborative spaces, 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 would have lost more than I care to think about.

One of my key concerns about enterprise KM systems was that they rarely provided the context that was required to turn a shared collection of ‘documents’ into knowledge.  A 20 page document could have been saved because I liked one pages of it and hated the other 19.  Or the context that existed in my brain that allowed me to sift through thousands of documents to locate just the single PowerPoint slide, that contained the graphic that added value was impossible to encode to allow another person to find that same slide.

With this background you can imagine how very pleased I was to read to read the Knowledge sharing paradox revisited where Harold Jarche says:

The knowledge sharing paradox is that enterprise social tools can constrain what they are supposed to enhance

He goes on to clarify his new found insight, which seems very consistent with my original one:

So my conclusion this time around was that the centralized stuff we spent so much time and money maintaining was simply not very useful to most practitioners. The practitioners I talked to about PPI [personal productivity improvement] said they would love to participate in PPI coaching, provided it was focused on the content on their own desktops and hard drives, and not the stuff in the central repositories.

Then he gets close to describing my philosophy:

The only way to build useful organizational knowledge is by connecting it to individual knowledge-sharing.

and later the almost exact approach I have ended up using:

For example, I use a combination of my blog, bookmarks, and tweets to inform my outboard brain so I can retrieve contextual knowledge as I interact with my clients and colleagues. This works for me, but it cannot be copied as a standardized process. Each person must find a process that works on an individual basis and this in turn can support the organization in leveraging collective knowledge. I don’t see the reverse working.

This unique approach that an individual must find on their own is what I call their work style and whilst I believe an enterprise can help users develop effective work styles they can’t mandate them. By way of illustration this posts describes some elements of my work style which you will see is unique, just like most other people I know.

You can follow my blog on twitter @steveiswriting, follow my reading @steveisreading and follow me @steverichards

The picture today is of the lovely library at the end of my road, 2 minutes walk away.  Appropriate for a post about knowledge management.

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

2 Responses

  1. Steve, yes, personal knowledge management is now talked about more than ever before – with Howard Jarche leading the way. Does that mean it’s more popular than ever? I’m not sure. I think we’re just beginning to realize the power of PKM, and as you say, the need for enterprise to focus on it. Knowledge begins at the personal level and without the P in PKM I’m not sure how effective KM is in the corporate environment.

  2. Steve, great article. I think too that both PKM and Enterprise KM have to interact, and talk about how it can be done, and what are the stakes, in the following article: PKM is not Enterprise KM, but both are complementary

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