Knowledge management most often refers to groups of people working together to achieve shared objectives. That work usually begins, however, in the personal sphere. Personal knowledge management (PKM) is the relationship individuals in organizations or communities maintain with their own work environment. That overall position as a source of knowledge makes PKM a vital piece of the total KM program.
“Everything that the organization needs emanates from a personal experience that someone wants to share with a team,” says Bloomfire CEO, Craig Malloy.
“Most people don’t have a full knowledge management culture. It grows organically.”
Malloy’s sentiments are precisely why the personal interpretation of the work experience by the individual worker is really the heart of knowledge management. It’s the person on the front lines making sense of all the moving pieces that truly shapes the dynamics of the organizational perspective. Personal knowledge management concerns itself with precisely how that individual interaction takes place.
Imagine you are a worker who spends the majority of your day in front of a computer screen at a desk in an office cubicle. You have limited exposure to your co-workers except during meetings, at lunch, or during chance conversations in the hallway or in the break room. Otherwise, your interactions only occur when your job functions happen to overlap. Naturally, there are large gaps in your understanding of how the organization functions, because you simply don’t have the real experiences of others. Naturally, the decisions you make will lack the insight they could potentially have if knowledge were shared more freely.
Personal knowledge management involves the individual having an awareness of the traditional limitations of organizations, and taking the steps necessary to generate that insight. The individual begins with an existing mental model of the organization – its goals, its structure, and its culture – and uses that as a framework to approach the work to be done. Every job requires an individual to constantly search for information, then sort and organize it to make meaning. That act of interpretation, that sense making, is the font of knowledge.
Guest post by Ryan Christman. Ryan is a University of Notre Dame graduate and United States Air Force veteran who enjoys learning about KM and works as a freelance writer from his home in Michigan.