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Friday, January 18, 2013

Beyond Personal Knowledge Management

@hjarche via @Cybersal says "I'll show the same thing many times and people have various interpretations of it. Sharing knowledge artifacts is not transferring knowledge." In other words, we don't actually share knowledge, what we share are documents and other artifacts that are supposed to contain knowledge.

If I send a document to Harold or Sally, they may or may not be able to extract some knowledge from it. There are many possible causes of knowledge impedance or attenuation, such as obscure language and specialized terminology, poor presentation, low motivation, and information overload. Even if either of them is able to glean some knowledge from perusing my document, what they get out may be quite different from the knowledge I thought I was putting in. Their interpretations depend on many things: their situation, their prior knowledge, beliefs and values, their expectations about what I'm trying to say, and their ability to read between the lines. (Even my closest friends and associates, who I imagine share a lot of my assumptions, read my documents in ways I find surprising, which is why I always greatly value their comments.)

Harold promotes something he calls Personal Knowledge Management, which describes knowledge management as an Input-Process-Output system.

  • Input (Seek) - we gather knowledge from our environment, including other people
  • Process (Sense) - we interpret, personalize and use knowledge
  • Output (Share) - we pass on our knowledge to other people

Harold talks about Network Learning, which seems to be about taking advantage of digital connectivity and embedding the Input (Seek) and Output (Share) into a wide social network. What I don't see in Harold's account of Network Learning is any sense of collective sense-making - knowledge emerging from the collaboration rather than being generated by one person. I'm also troubled by the implication that knowledge is produced by thinking rather than doing, since I think the most useful knowledge is what emerges from practice.

So while there is undoubtedly a great deal of value in Harold's approach, I think it underplays some of the social and practical elements of knowledge management and organizational intelligence.

Harold Jarche's website: Personal Knowledge Management, Network Learning

See also Jose Baldaia, Who tells a story transfers tacit knowledge and creates new (May 2012)

Places are still available on my forthcoming workshops Business Awareness (Jan 28), Business Architecture (Jan 29-31), Organizational Intelligence (Feb 1).


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  2. A lot of knowledge management companies provide different programs and approaches in knowledge management. I like the I-P-O description of knowledge management here in your blog. Thanks for posting.