PKM is making sense of complexity

This is what you find on the first page of most searches for PKM:

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 – Wikipedia

It is interesting to note that this definition comes from a study on manufacturing and artificial intelligence.

The paper tries to bridge gap between knowledge management and artificial intelligence approaches proposing agent-based framework for modelling organization and personal knowledge. The perspective of knowledge management is chosen to develop two conceptual models—one describes the intelligent enterprise memory, another models an intelligent organization’s knowledge management system. The concept of an agent-based environment of the knowledge worker for personal and organizational knowledge management support is introduced. – Agent based approach for organization and personal knowledge modelling: knowledge management perspective (2007)

In my practice of PKM, and the Seek > Sense > Share framework, there is nothing artificial at all, and looking for automation only detracts from the real power of PKM.  In the same Wikipedia article, reference is made to Dave Snowden’s issues with the concept.

Dave Snowden has asserted that most individuals cannot manage their knowledge in the traditional sense of “managing” and has advocated thinking in terms of sensemaking rather than PKM.

I agree. Dave has published a recent article on the Cynefin framework, which I think shows clearly where PKM can play a critical role. It is in making sense of complexity.

Cynefin is not intended as a crude categorisation model, although it has been used as such with some utility.  It is as much about dynamic movements.  So in the model shown here the prime dynamic is shown in red.  The idea is that ideas emerge in the complex domain and are then constrained to shift them into complicated. As you start to impose constraint you see if it creates repeatability, if not pull back.  If it works then you shift from exploration to exploitation.  Periodically you relax the constraints again to allow new possibilities to emerge.  From time to time the dynamic may have ossified in which case a reset is need; the blue line known as a shallow dive into chaos.   Only when change is no longer plausible is it shifted to Obvious [green]Great is the power of steady misrepresentation

Cynefin_Dec_13_DaveSnowdenCynefin image by Dave Snowden

“Ideas emerge in the complex domain …” which is where creative knowledge workers in a network economy need to be active, probing, and playing. We also need to do shallow dives into the Chaotic domain. Neither of these activities will be helped through automation. If anything, automation will make us lazy, or unaware.

The process of seeking out people and information sources, making sense of them by taking some action, and then sharing with others to confirm or accelerate our knowledge, are those activities from which we can build our knowledge. Managing and sharing information, especially through conversations, are fundamental processes for sense-making in the complex domain. Sense-making is acting on one’s knowledge.

A key principle of PKM is that no one has the right answer, but together we can create better ways of understanding complex systems. We each need to find others who are sharing their knowledge flow and in turn contribute our own. It’s not about being a better digital librarian, it’s about becoming a participating member of a networked organization, economy and society.

Sense-making consists of both asking and telling. It’s a continuing series of conversations. We know that conversation is the main way that tacit knowledge gets shared. So we should continuously seek out ideas. We can then have conversations around these ideas to make sense of them. Sharing closes the circle, because being a personal knowledge manager is every professional’s part of the social learning contract. Without effective sense-making at the individual level, social learning at the organizational level is mere noise amplification.

So ask what value you can add ->

adding valueOnline PKM workshop starts 6 January 2014: Register here.

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