A few weeks ago I thought about asking this question when I saw the KM Magazine had devoted an entire issue to personal knowledge management. This morning, though, my Bloglines feed from Jack Vinson's Knowledge Jolt completely derailed my planned work and sent me wandering through a wonderful series of posts and articles that I'm going to list at the end of this post.
But for now I want to note what appears to be a broadening recognition that knowledge management cannot succeed by focusing its attention at the corporate or enterprise level. Only by focusing on the KM needs of individual knowledge workers and building cultural, rewards, and technology systems that support individual knowledge workers, can we hope to achieve the organizational goals of greater productivity and innovation capacity.
Let's make it simple:and Denham's contrary views linked above. See where their ideas and links lead you!
You can't manage knowledge. If you are an organisation.
You can manage knowledge. If you are an individual. -
Here, though, I'd like to offer what I think may be the way to harmonize Denham's worries about KM focused too much on the individual with my notion that that's the only place we can focus and hope to accomplish anything useful. I hope I'm not truncating his thoughts unfairly, but his concerns seem to come down to these statements:
My issues are with an internal focus, personal branding, organization & arrangement of information objects, voicing 'thoughts' without engaging in dialog, trumpeting the primacy of personal knowledge.It seems to me that the key to resolving Denham's concerns lies in the direction of the arrow he seems to draw in with his phrase "internal focus." PKM need not be focused inward on the individual. In my view, it should be focused outward from the individual.
. . . My position is our knowledge originates, is created, vetted and shared in a social not a private world, that we need to work at improving our aggregate awareness, community inquiry, cultivate safe places and build relationships.
Of course, this still forces us to start at the individual knowledge worker. But as many of the posts and articles I've surfed this morning agree, that's the only way to save KM from its well-documented, often spectacularly expensive, failures.
It's critical to note that this redrawing of Denham's arrow to point outward from the individual addresses many of his concerns. It leads us immediately to the individual's greatest information resource and knowledge generating enabler: her social network.
I've been working on a diagram of a KM model that's intended to describe the acquisition, processing, and dissemination of knowledge. It's based on my view that KM is about supporting creative problem solving by knowledge workers and extends the "connecting the dots" metaphor that I adopted for the tag line to this blog (see, for example, Warren Bennis' description of how revolutionary creative problem solvers work in Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration).
My goal is to create a model that describes the knowledge work of individuals, small groups (teams, communities of practice), or large organizations. The model is still evolving and uses some of the terminology the KM ontology recently proposed by Holsapple & Joshi [subscription only; abstract here].
But I believe the diagram may help address Denham's concerns by emphasizing the activities at each end: collecting the dots we need now, or might need someday, to solve a problem; and sharing the resulting knowledge. Both ends require connections to others, to communities, to our organizations, to the "social world" Denham describes.
Denham closes his latter post with the statement, "Knowledge is a collective skill, you cannot do it alone." I must respectfully disagree.
Knowledge generation is often, perhaps at its best, a collective activity (though not always). And knowledge sharing necessarily involves others (though not necessarily in real-time). But knowledge itself is, I think, inherently an individual possession. It can only exist in the mind of an individual. So far, we have no way of telling how closely the knowledge I attempt to share resembles the knowledge you construct in your mind on receiving the "usable knowledge representation" I create and attempt to convey.
Thus, we must focus on helping individuals do better with personal knowledge management.
With that I'll leave you to check out some of the other places I connected with this morning to collect some more dots. Hope you enjoy the detour as much as I did:
Martin Roell's post at Das E-Business Weblog, Knowledge Management does not exist. Personal Knowledge Management does.
Lilia Efimova's post at Mathemagenic,Discovering the iceberg of knowledge work: A weblog case [Full text of her paper here.]
Dave Pollard's recent series of posts on re-thinking PKM as "Work Effectiveness Improvement":
A PRESCRIPTION FOR 'WORK EFFECTIVENESS IMPROVEMENT'
CONFESSIONS OF A CKO: WHAT I SHOULD HAVE DONE
PERSONAL KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT
Collaboration First, Then Knowledge Management, article by Matthew Clapp
The nonsense of 'knowledge management', an academic view by T.D. Wilson