Personal Knowledge Management

Personal Knowledge Management

I was recently asked to give a talk/presentation on the topic “Personal Knowledge Management”, a topic close to my heart and something that I’ve been practising for more years than I care to remember. It’s also something that I’m happy to evangelise about, and hence I was more than happy to spend a bit of time collating my thoughts and preparing a brief presentation for the audience.

But what do we mean by ‘Personal Knowledge Management’ – or  ‘PKM’?

For me, this is the missing element in the SECI Model of Knowledge Dimensions, which is rather a dry look at KM processes and misses the personal element altogether.

I should come clean here and admit that I don’t much like the term ‘Knowledge Management’ (KM), which is an instant turn-off for many people, particularly those that have had Knowledge Management ‘done to them’. They’ve perhaps been sucked into a corporate strategy to become a ‘learning organisation’ that was heavy on vision and messages, but light on “what does it mean for me?” Or maybe they’ve lived through the hype and legacy of the snake-oil salesmen that pedalled instant technology solutions that would solve all of their organisation’s information problems.

So, by putting ‘Personal’ in front of ‘KM’, am I propagating the confusion, or fear? Maybe I am, but we need a common lexicon to be able to communicate, and like it or not, KM still looms large as a topic, a discipline, a process and a profession. Hence, I’ll have to live with the legacy of misinformation rather than trying to invent a new label.

I’ve leaned towards the PKM term as a follower of many of the articles and blog posts by Harold Jarche, who has influenced some of my thinking (but not all). The “Seek-Sense-Share” paradigm as promoted by Jarche is a simple but effective process that encourages the self-learn facet at the heart of PKM. Jarche defines PKM as:

A set of processes, individually constructed, to help each of us make sense of our world & work more effectively. (Harold Jarche)

This is pretty much consistent with the Wikepedia definition:

Personal knowledge management (PKM) is a collection of processes that a person uses to gather, classify, store, search, retrieve, and share knowledge in his or her daily activities.

But what is the importance and relevance of PKM?

There are at least two factors that have hastened the need for knowledge workers to practice Knowledge Management at the personal level (Tsui 2002):

  • Firstly, the knowledge economy has given birth to a new kind of worker. These workers are likely to be self-employed, their decisions are almost all knowledge-based, their work tasks are far less structured and they fiercely defend their independence.
  • Secondly, for Enterprise Knowledge Management initiatives to be successful, it is important that individual knowledge workers are competent at managing knowledge at the personal level.

PKM extends further than giving employees access to Intranets, Enterpise Social Software Systems or Knowledge/Information Standards. If organisations stopped spending so much time on processes and technology solutions and uncovered the latent potential in employees then real value could be harnessed through Personal Knowledge Management. The goal is to make knowledge workers better at capturing, using and sharing knowledge, and maximising their personal effectiveness in the social and relationship-building part of their jobs.

PKM is also about taking responsibility for your own personal and professional development. This means being an accomplished networker, comfortable with technology and – perhaps most important of all – curious. Curiosity encourages serendipitous connections and a desire to understand the complex world we live in. By equipping ourselves with the skills to understand the environment we live and work in , we can make better decisions, grow our reputation and ensure we remain relevant in the career path we have chosen for ourselves.

I hope you find the slides useful.

(NB. I curate a magazine on subject of PKM, and run occasional training courses for TFPL. The next course is scheduled for 11th September 2013. Sign-up for one or both if you’d like to understand more about PKM).

Presentation Slides:

6 thoughts on “Personal Knowledge Management

  1. Very interesting presentation. I am trying to foment the PKM in my organization but I am facing a lot of resistance from upper management. Could you share the PKM questionnaire linked on the first slides?

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