Monday, May 18, 2009

PKM And Networks

I came across this interesting post by John Tropea, about Sensemaking, PKM, and Networks. He has written a rather interesting one about the value of networks. What is nice about this post is the way he distinguishes between the "best practices" (what i like to call codification), and the "network" (collaboration) approaches to KM. One thing which we usually tend to overlook is the fact that documents, or codified knowledge arises from the human mind. Rather, that all knowledge is directly or indirectly tacit, and documents are the result of externalization of tacit knowledge, into some form.

If we take this line of reasoning forward, it would be easy to arrive at the thinking that the idea of the network has not really been alien to the idea of KM, only that the importance of the network was overlooked for some time. Rather, if we look at history, before even the invention of printing, the traditions of storytelling (which, by the way, were, and still are, quite strong in human society), and the tradition of orally transmitting knowledge from one generation to another has always been a part of human civilization. This implies blending the codification and collaboration approaches. Only the last few years, with the over-emphasis of codification of just about everything, that we have actually deviated from this. Which means that the emphasis on networks is a welcome thing.

I quite agree with John when he says:

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.

However, i am not sure i agree with the observation:

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.

The way i look at it, all knowledge is essentially peraonal (remember, all knowledge is directly or indirectly tacit?). If this be the way it is, then the question that we need to ask is what role does the network play, and what role the corporate KM initiative can play. To look at this simply, the idea of the corporate KM initiative is essentially to get the personal KM out of the personal space of the individual, into the community, or the corporate space, so that this knowledge is available, as easily as can be, to the network, the community, and the organization. The thing we need to appreciate is that by their very nature, networks are quite good at doing this, and this could be one reason why networks might need to be one of the central aspects of the KM initiatives.


Nick Milton said...

Hi Atul

I think you will find most of the quotes you use are from my blog post here

Your conclusion " to get the personal KM out of the personal space of the individual, into the community, or the corporate space" is exactly right. This is how knowledge becomes communal and collective, rather than personal and individual. It's the failure to do this, which drives people to manage knowledge for themselves, rather than as part of the community, which was what I was trying to say in the second quote you used.

By the way, I think you are in danger of drawing a false distinction between "the "best practices" and the "network" approaches to KM". The longest-running and most effective KM programs I know, integrate these two approaches. They are not mutually exclusive, they are complementary and each has its part to play in a fully developed KM approach. Networks have been part of KM for a couple of decades now.

Atul said...

I quite agree with you, Nick. I guess what i was trying to say is that by their very nature, networks tend to be the appropriate medium for the spread of knowledge from the personal to the collective.

Nimmy said...

I am inclined to agree with both you as well as John! :-)

PKM is an indication of the failure of corporate KM *only* if the PKM and corporate KM practices and tools being used are mutually exclusive! But we can always have a corporate KM initiative that takes PKM needs into consideration and provide tools and utilities that allow people to extract and keep track of knowledge being generated and shared in the corporate KM system based on their own specific needs!! (Eg: Personal - shared - home page, RSS feeds based on criteria/tags, friends network that are visible to the rest of the organization etc)

Atul said...

Quite agree with your observation, Nimmy. Though probably corporate KM is, in essence, an aggregation of PKM?

Nimmy said...

Yes...! That makes sense to me!