Sense-making

The term personal knowledge management (PKM) isn’t about management in a business sense but rather how we can manage to make sense of information and experience in our electronic surround.

Personal – according to one’s abilities, interests & motivation (not directed by external forces).

Knowledge – connecting information to experience (know what, know who, know how).

Management – getting things done.

PKM is an individually created process. Tim Kastelle has discussed how important it is to Filter, in the process of Aggregate-Filter-Connect. I have recently used Seek-Sense-Share to describe PKM.

The critical part of PKM is in personalizing information and experience, or to use a business term, adding value. Ross Dawson shows five ways to add value to information (my examples/descriptions follow):

Filtering (separating signal from noise, based on some criteria)

Validation (ensuring that information is reliable, current or supported by research)

Synthesis (describing patterns, trends or flows in large amounts of information)

Presentation (making information understandable through visualization or logical presentation)

Customization (describing information in context)

Terms such as Filter or Sense don’t adequately describe the sense-making process in PKM. Looking at it from an outside perspective though, as Ross Dawson has done, gives another way to describe some of what is happening in our minds. We are adding value (and context) to information so that we can later retrieve it and perhaps use it. Whatever we make transparent is value-added information for others, especially if we do it consciously and well.

The image below shows an expanded description of sense-making in the context of PKM.

PKM sense-making

A basic tool I’ve described for PKM is social bookmarking to file information. It’s simple but doesn’t add a lot of value, just a few text comments. A tweet is also simple and cannot add much value with a 140 character limit. A blog post can be much more informative especially if one takes time to research, link and compose. A collaborative document that aggregates information and shows it from a different perspective could also be valuable. Developing a slide presentation with carefully selected graphics could be seen as higher value information. More difficult to produce and perhaps adding more value to basic information, could be a narration with the slideshow. I have noticed that the process of developing higher-value information helps to sharpen one’s own thinking.

Once again, I want to point out that people with better PKM skills, an ability to create higher value information, and a willingness to share it, will become more valued members (nodes) in their professional networks.

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5 Responses to “Sense-making”

  1. Dennis Callahan

    I like the new addition. My version of this is listening (input), thinking (purify) and speaking (output) in the context of a learnstream. Seek, sense and share might be easier to remember.

    The value scale in the visual throws me off a little. It tells me that seeking = low value, sharing = high value and sensing is something in-between. A scale that starts at “lower” or “lowest” value to “higher” or “highest” seems more accommodating to the different perspectives and motives for the information. This might be what you’re indicating in the sense color gradient (indicating more value as the color fades). This post is more than low value to me even though I may not present and customize at this time.

    “Whatever we make transparent is value-added information for others, especially if we do it consciously and well.” Good point. It’s also another form of value-add for you (and others) because you invite others into the synthesis process to help advance the idea.