A compass for the Big Shift

Participation in knowledge flows can generate new insights and practices and improve performance in ways that also yield learning and new capabilities.

This thinking extends from the individual up into the organization and beyond, into the ecosystem. Not just how can we learn, but how can we learn faster? We’re still early in the Big Shift, but if we can figure this out, we create an environment of increasing returns, expanding opportunity, and more value for everybody. – John Hagel: Why learning is the only sustainable response to the increasing pressures of the Big Shift

Personal knowledge mastery (PKM) is a discipline of seeking from diverse knowledge sources, actively making sense through action and experimentation, and sharing through narration of work and learning out loud. PKM is a critical business skill to address what John Hagel describes in the Shift Index:

The ability to participate in and learn from knowledge flows, often through technology, will be critical for success for individuals, organizations, and ecosystems.

Learning faster is not about taking more courses or consuming more information. It’s about have better connections. In my PKM workshops, we start by mapping our knowledge networks, as it is important to understand the makeup of our sources of knowledge. If our networks lack diversity, we may suffer from the effects of group think or experience an echo chamber of opinion. My experience in running these workshops is that the concepts are simple to understand but the practices are difficult to make into habits. PKM is not a tool set, it is a discipline. It takes time, feedback, reflection, and active practice to master.

For organizations to meet the challenges described by John Hagel in the Big Shift, they need to switch from short-term to long-term thinking about learning. Executives have to understand that learning is not something to get. People need time to master PKM skills but they cannot do this in an organization where mistakes are not tolerated. People need to be able to share openly and this may work against existing performance management systems, most of which should be put in the trash anyway.

Yes we can figure out how to learn faster.compass-152124_640

First we need to re-wire for complexity.

Then we have to promote and encourage social leadership, while ensuring that work is learning and learning is the work.

Which can be supported by the PKM Seek > Sense > Share framework.

Finally, we need to continuously remove barriers to learning.

We have most of the answers, but a lot of organizational leadership appears to be directionless in preparing for the Big Shift. Social leadership can be the rudder, with PKM as the compass.

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One Response to “A compass for the Big Shift”

  1. Bonni Stachowiak

    Thank you for emphasizing that PKM isn’t about a particular set of technology tools. I teach PKM in a doctoral program for educators. Those students who are more reluctant to embrace technology regularly express a desire for me to prescribe exactly what toolset to use. I’ve contemplated having a foundational set of apps/services for them to use as a part of their PKM assignments. However, it seems contrary to the spirit of PKM, as you have articulated so well in this blog post.

    I notice some of the educators want there to be a “right” answer to the “problem” of PKM. This seems to say much about some of what’s wrong in our educational system today… That being said, there is something to be said for “dipping one’s toe into the practice of PKM,” without becoming overwhelmed by technology.

    About half the cohort members typically haven’t ever used Twitter, have no idea what bookmarks are, and haven’t ever blogged before. A few students set about to try out a whole host of new tools and then get frustrated far before they have a good foundation for starting to develop their PKM practices.

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