W3: Personal Knowledge Management

In 1968, the late teacher and story-teller, Idries Shah prophesied just how complicated our lives were becoming.

“People today are in danger of drowning in information; but, because they have been taught that information is useful, they are more willing to drown than they need be. If they could handle information, they would not have to drown at all.”

Fast-forward 50 years and we are having information force-fed to us 24 hours a day. We live in a world where we are in a constant state of inter-connectivity. We become uncomfortable if we do not know where our mobile phone is. We have access to millions of hours of video, right at the tips of our fingers. We live in a world where we can answer almost any question, instantly. But what does this mean for the way we consume information? Is the external ‘white noise’ distracting us from what is important in our jobs and our personal lives? With so much information everywhere, we need to be able to decide what is useful and what is not. A deeper look into Personal Knowledge Management can assist with that. Through identifying PKM attributes, we can be smart about what sort of knowledge you process.


Personal Knowledge Management is an evolving set of skills, abilities and knowledge, that allows us as individuals to survive and prosper as the world around us changes. It focuses more on helping us as individuals, be more effective. Not just in work, but in life as well.


One of the core focuses of PKM is personally enquiry. The quest to find, connect, learn and explore. If we are able to harness the management of our own personal knowledge, enabling us to work more effectively as individuals, the flow on is such that we will be able to work more effectively as employees.


The fundamental difference between PKM and KM is that the former focuses on the individual, while the latter focuses on the business.

KM is vital to any corporation (as touched on in the WK2 blog), these corporations employ KM metrics and ideologies with the goal of enabling the corporation to be more effective by ‘recording’ what their people know. Basically they seek out employees tacit knowledge, extract it, encode it and upload it into their information systems.

The obviously difficulties here is that there is no simple way of achieving this. Many organisations have tried and failed to capture tacit knowledge. In some cases it may not be emphasised enough how important individuals tacit knowledge is, and more work needs to be done with their people.

The attitude of PKM may be summed up more simply – “what’s in it for me?”

What steps can I be taking, in order to be more effective in my job, and in my life?


Very simply we need to ask ourselves – “what do I need to know?”

What areas do I need to focus on in order to get ahead? What do I need to work on now, that is going to set me up for the next 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 24 months, 60 months?

PKM is a tool that can help us understand what information I need to seek out now, so that I may begin to evaluate and bring into my knowledge-base, ready for the future. PKM is about getting ahead, through managing and anticipating what I need.


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