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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Personal in Personal Knowledge Management

Great dialog between Harold Jarche and Stephen Downes around Harold's PKM process


Stephen Downes wrote in response:

… what does the concept of a ‘method’ here imply? That there is a ‘best’ way to manage knowledge an information? Isn’t that what we’ve learned there isn’t? It’s a pick-and-choose sort of thing: the way we manage information has a lot to do with the information, and a lot to do with who we are and what we want the information for …

Harold responded with Other PKM processes where he shows some other models and states:

To be clear, my intention is to show what works for me and perhaps some part of this may work others. All of my articles on PKM are descriptive, not prescriptive. Take what you need, as there are no “best practices” for complex and personal learning processes.

Harold and I have discussed this exact issue before and we are both on the same page that Personal is really important word in Personal Knowledge Management.  Studies of Personal Information Management say that what works is often highly personal.  However, a lot can be gained from sharing approaches and practices.

Anyone who has seen me present know that I give a big caveat with the word Personal on the slide.  While I use the words, "you should" … what I mean is that "you should consider and maybe try" … not necessarily "you should adopt" …  What works for me, may or may not work for you.

However, there are some people who take that to mean that they can be successful continuing to use the same approaches without being aware of, considering or trying alternatives.  That's a real mistake.  And Harold and Stephen are great at trying to provide ways to think about and think through these alternatives.

So, while I push a lot around tools and methods for work and learning:

and the list goes on. ( In fact, Work Literacy is pretty much this topic. )

This is a good opportunity to add the same caveat:

The real intent is to provide context, alternatives and suggestions of where things might apply.  Your mileage will vary.


Stephen Downes said...

But you don't touch on the hard question of whether there is a process. See my follow-up

Tony Karrer said...

Stephen - are a set of methods considered a process? Not really right?

I think there are some bigger methods that I might call a process, such as what I talk about in top-down strategy. But the day-to-day is not really a process.

It's a set of methods that you basically fire upon certain situations. That follows the classic model for what the crux of knowledge work is all about and why we need to be aware of those trigger points and aware of the methods we use.

I do take a bit of issue with saying that things are "random and chaotic" where that might imply that you can't be ready with triggers and methods. I feel the way you've positioned it leaves room for people to ignore that there might be other ways to handle things.

Argey said...

While I'm in strong agreement that no one approach to PKM works for everyone, I think it goes further. No single approach works all the time, even for one person. Flexibility is important, and having a handful of techniques that suit an individual's style for use in different circumstances has always been necessary for me.

Yes, techniques or methods are not process. The inputs, environment and resources available at times when I want to record and manage some new knowledge are so variable, it's hard to conceive of an overarching process that would suit all contexts. But maybe that's just a case of limited imagination...

Barbara Fillip said...

I think of it as practices / processes at two different levels: 1) things I do routinely that are part of my broader PKM approach, which is constantly evolving, but slowly; 2) things I do that are PKM-related but address the specific needs of a project or activity, something more time-bound.

Tony Karrer said...

@Argey - I agree with you. Thanks for the comment. And good point that similar situations may have elements that imply different methods.

@Barbara - that's an interesting point that I had not really considered. There are some slower changing methods that I execute on a consistent basis. For example, blog reading, processing, blogging as an on-going learning routine. Then there are methods I use on a case-by-case basis.

There might be some interesting ways to structure this.

What's interesting though is that there's not a catalog of these methods. It would be great if Work Literacy could head that way.

Maybe a Work Literacy wiki that captures methods akin to the Wiki Patterns. Actually, patterns might be the better form to use to capture these.

Any thoughts?

Argey said...

Tony, I'm curating a wiki on information mapping here:

Horses-for-courses is a major theme running through that. The wiki aims to help its readers choose the most appropriate map
style for their task in hand at the time.

Feel free to add topics if you feel that 'informationtamers' is a suitable base for Personal KM wiki articles.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Tony!

I'm inclined to agree with Stephen on this one. Even when a specific job associated with sorting or categorising 'knowledge' is given to someone, the end result depends heavily on interpretation of:

1 what's important knowledge
2 how a sort should be done
3 what a category is
4 criteria for categorising
5 etc.

I think we have to be pragmatic here, for nothing is 'transparent' when it comes to interpretation and the analysts tell us that personality has a lot to do with how each of us sees things.

The same applies to process. It may seem complicated when the process is defined but it becomes complex when humans start following the complicated procedure. As dogmatic as a managerial approach to this idea may be, it's simply not simple.

Catchya later