Sunday, April 26, 2009
There's a lot out there in the blogosphere at the moment about Personal Knowledge Management (PKM), and I have to admit, it's something that I find a little disturbing. You see, for me, Knowledge Management is not a personal thing; it's a communal thing. The whole culture change associated with KM lies in seeing knowledge not as personal property, to be held, hoarded or traded personally, but as community property to be sought, shared, reused and refreshed in community.
There's a saying that "all of us are smarter than any of us"* which bears this out - that the more people involved in the creation and reuse of knowledge, the more valuable that knowledge will be. Now community knowledge management, or even corporate knowledge management, is a difficult thing to do, and needs to be addressed as a company-wide change in culture, behaviour, process and accountability. It's easier to reorganise your personal information habits, than it is to change the culture of a company. It's easier to be personal, than it is to work in community. But for me, working KM as a personal issue just does not deliver the value. It may give the individual more efficient access to information and documents, but it does not give access to better knowledge. And that makes personal KM a red herring, a cul-de-sac, a distraction.
Now I know that many people develop PKM habits out of frustration. The information they need is not readily available through the company, or through the community, so they build their own stores. But as soon as the content of those personal knowledge stores starts to drift away from community knowledge, then all you are doing is introducing information and knowledge silos at the level of the individual. If the company is doing Knowledge Management properly, and making communal knowledge transparently available at the point of need, then you would not need PKM.
So for me, PKM is a sign of failure of corporate KM. If you get corporate KM correct, you don't need personal knowledge management, as all knowledge management will be collective, giving the individual access to far far more than their personal store.
Picture from Flickr creative commons, taken by ktheory
*Although there is a fine line between the wisdom of the crowds, and the madness of the mob. And just because an idea is popular, does not mean it's correct.