In my last blog, we saw that Personal Knowledge Management relies on certain simple tools and techniques that anyone can acquire. They are intended to help you enjoy the global market place of ideas, without information overload, falling into the arms of ‘fake news’ or any of the other traps that face todays knowledge workers.
These suggestions have been sourced from a chapter by L Prusak and J Cranefield, in Personal Knowledge Management: Individual, Organizational and Social Perspectives, edited by Pauleen and Gorman, published by Routledge, 2016.
First let’s look why we should be motivated to take good care of our knowledge. We are what we know to a large extent. Our knowledge forms our ideas, our decisions and our view of the world. We want to be confident that our perspective is not stale or out-dated. With our knowledge a large part of what makes us unique, we need to keep it current and relevant, to give us that sought-after edge in our performance. To use a fashionable phrase, we need to ‘take control’ of our own knowledge. This can be done by investing appropriate time and money, as knowledge is the foundation upon which we base our way of thinking, our problem solving and our interpretation of events. The quality of our knowledge and information matters! Here are the four suggestions.
Select wisely. The first suggestion is that we need to be critical of orthodoxy. We can look at ‘best practice’ carefully and only accept it where it suits our specific environment, selecting and adapting where appropriate. When you are using external knowledge, apply critical analysis and make sure you have selected the best available, rather than the most ubiquitous or popular.
Validate your sources. With so much information available, you need to be sure you are getting information from a reliable source. Most knowledge workers will have some idea of how to check sources, and there are guides to this on the internet itself. But it takes time. It is worth investigating alternatives, such as the possibilities of finding suitable ‘recommenders’ based on Artificial Intelligence. However, no matter how sophisticated these are, they are still only based on algorithms, so it is best to find a moderator such as a broker, who needs to be someone you have good reason to trust. his allows you to access the best of the automated and the personal. Brokers can also ‘match make’ to pass on contacts that may be relevant to you. But do make sure your broker has street cred.
Networking. Another useful suggestion is to build a trusted network. This, of course, will involve give and take. In particular, it is advisable to follow up weak ties, that is those contacts that are not your closest colleagues and friends. Weak ties can provide access new and challenging sources, to help you avoid over-reliance on your regular strong network, which can lead you into one-track thinking. As we are all regularly reminded, the plethora of information media may result in people too easily only hearing reinforcement of their own stock answers. Diversity is best for reaching a true variety of perspectives and for building up your access to complementary skills
Get out more. In order to have opportunities to access new and powerful tacit knowledge we have to get out into the world. Nothing beats real emotions and real face-to-face contacts. You cannot always stay in the filtered virtual world, as there it is easy to miss subtleties and nuance. There is magic in the chance encounters of serendipity, and we all need to build social capital via real life socialisation. Testing your knowledge by new experiences is always advisable. A change of environment can shake up rigid thinking and is one of the best ways to free up your creativity.
Conclusion: Investing in knowledge is like taking good food and exercising regularly. You are what you know. If we invest wisely we will escape the obvious and find ways to access the exceptional!