Personal Knowledge Management: It’s all about sharing

What is Personal Knowledge Management?

After a few evenings of reading articles on Personal Knowledge Management (PKM), I’ve finally come to an understanding that it is basically about the promotion of organisational productivity through the use of bottom-up, individual-focused approaches to Knowledge Management. Wikipedia refers to Personal Knowledge Management as:

“a collection of processes that an individual carries out to gather, classify, store, search, retrieve, and share knowledge in his/her daily activities…”

Reading these articles reminds me of my current institution and other educational institutions that I have worked for – my classroom and students, the regular staff meetings, the sign-in book, roll-call, text-books, teacher-guides, course materials, schemes-of-work, lesson plans, policy documents, evaluation visits from senior management, etc, etc. These are just a few examples of elements of traditional Knowledge Management strategies that educational institutions use to monitor productivity (teaching and learning).

Traditional Approach to Knowledge Management

In such a system, although individuals (who are mostly students and teachers) are encouraged to collaborate in order to be productive, there is very little room for autonomy, and creativity. The aim of such top-down Knowledge Management approach is to ensure that practice is aligned with a set of predetermined goals or vision. Unfortunately, however, knowledge belongs to individuals and therefore it cannot be managed at the organisational level. In a KM Magazine article entitled The Interpretation of Information, Lester S. Pierre adds:

“Many organizations fail to capitalize on the wealth of knowledge scattered across their organization because they rely on top-down decision making and centralized knowledge management systems and technologies. While analytics and data are very important, the interpretation of this data—which can only come from a person—can be more valuable to an organization.”

David Gurteen emphasises that in such an ” isolated knowledge management programme looked after by a privileged few is a paradox in itself and will not survive for long.”

Focusing on the Individual

At the individual level, each person has a ‘unique’ way of interpreting data. And this unique process of interpretation is managed only by the individual. In addition, the way an individual applies this interpreted information is also unique. This uniqueness of interpretation and application makes knowledge personal. Thus, rather than trying to manage individual knowledge at the organisational level, successful PKM strategies need to focus on providing conditions conducive to  sharing of personal knowledge. David Gurteen refers to such provision as a Knowledge Sharing Culture.

Does this Knowledge Sharing Culture has to be Digital?
Credit: Maika Tukuafu's artowrkNo! Not necessarily. Technology is essential but it is not the focus of PKM. PKM focuses on the individual. John Blossom and Robin Good have this to say:

“personal knowledge managemen is really about eliminating the IT gibberish that hangs up so many collaborative efforts and getting to the important thing: passionate professionals communicating effectively with peers through flexible, easy-to-use publishing tools”

Although technology is important to productivity and knowledge creation, technology-oriented PKM initiatives are more likely to fail when the needs of individuals are marginalised. Lilia Efimova concludes:

“By focusing on an individual it shows that knowledge work is comprised of more than the specific tasks knowledge workers perform. This integrated perspective facilitates reflection on existing support for knowledge work. It could be useful for a knowledge worker picking and mixing personal productivity techniques and tools, as well as for an organisation integrating different KM projects and systems. For technology developers it can indicate directions for creating tools that allow flexibility and seamless integration of multiple uses (as contrasted with the current generation of tools which are highly specialised, but not well connected…)”


About Vilimaka on cruiselyna
Science teacher educator. Online teaching and learning. Use of web-based technologies in education.

2 Responses to Personal Knowledge Management: It’s all about sharing

  1. Atle Iversen says:

    Nice article !

    My take on this:
    – Knowledge Management = Organizational productivity (help people get their job done)
    – Personal Knowledge Management = Personal productivity (help *you* get *your* job done)

    In a “assembly-line” type of job, individual productivity is not that important (as each individual can be “easily” replaced with another to do the same job). The process and procedures are often more important than each individual.

    However, in modern “knowledge worker” type of jobs, the sum of each individuals productivity *is* the organizational productivity.

    Each knowledge-based job is different, and everybody has different strategies, methods and needs with regards to “gather, classify, store, search, retrieve, and share knowledge “.

    Sharing knowledge is just *one* part of many – in some jobs it is the most important, in other jobs it is the *least* important. In this time of information overload, the ability to gather, classify, store, search and *retrieve* information and knowledge is often the hardest part 🙂

    My 2 cents on this:

  2. Thanks for the insights Atle Iversen.

    “– Knowledge Management = Organizational productivity (help people get their job done)
    – Personal Knowledge Management = Personal productivity (help *you* get *your* job done”

    Very useful

    I’ll follow the links

    Thanks again.

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