Following Harold Jarche’s excellent Personal Knowledge Management Course a while ago1, I recently reflected a bit about my sensemaking2 & “PKM”3 habits. Looking back, my experience with PKM can roughly be separated into an “old” and “new” era.
The old era: UX, UI, IA (and more)#
I had started a blog in 2003 as a “side project” to my daily work, but it was more of a “pet project” to post interesting things, some code I’d written, and reflections on things not directly related to work. When I changed jobs in 2004, entering the world of consulting and project work for “online businesses”, keeping up with the tools and means of knowledge management, intranets (Web 2.0, anyone?), social media and the latest technologies became crucial to be able to better support our customers.
Naturally, with the experience we had at my workplace, the teams moved forward, tested new ways of shatibg best practices and experiences, communities of practice, internal blogs and link-lists and of course wikis for seeking, sensemaking and sharing. At this time, sharing my thinking with peers at work was very natural and easily done — in fact, it was highly encouraged and even lead to an appearance at a very renowned conference at that time, the EuroIA in Paris in 20104.
The new era: a careful, gentle advance at the government#
When I changed to my current role with the government, this all changed. Not only do I operate in a more political and diplomatic environment, the way a (our) government works, a careful, gentle culture related to noevlty and innovation5 or the tools we can (and can not) use but also the very varied domains our sub-organizations work in make it hard(er) to embrace the kind of “seek > sense > share” loops I was used to.
So while I continued to post interesting articles and links (sometimes with, more often without my own thoughts) on social media and use the experience and knowledge gained in the years in private companies in new ways, the “internal” knowledge management changed dramatically. Exposure of my thoughts and ideas (inside the organization) is almost zero these days, and much of what I come across is shared either through 1:1 conversations (which provides fewer feedback loops than CoP’s or internal blogs), or by integrating it piece by piece in my work (reports, guidelines, presentations, policy work, e-mails, and of course discussions), all in the hope that it will be reflected upon, fed-back to me, and eventually integrated in the collective thinking (if its seen as a worthy contribution to how we work or think about different topics or make policy).
The “old days” with a relatively narrow area of topics I have to be knowledgeable about are gone.
This was and is not necessarily bad. In fact, the environment I’m working in can be quite complex, touching everything from technology, to business and economics to policy making (and politics) and diplomacy, and it means working with a broad variety of stakeholders on a daily basis. It is in fact an environment that has its own speed at which new things can emerge, settle and be picked-up by others.
Now, after now more than 9 years in my current role, I perceive a renewed and remarkably articulate interest of myself in all things PKM, knowledge management. As the organization, our environemnt any myself have changed over the years, it seems like it might finally be the right time to go back in order to shape the future and catalyze my experience of yore and my new knowledge together to the benefit of the organization, and ultimately, the citizens we serve in government.
In hindsight, I find it quite fascinating how dramatic this change was and how a remarkably long time it took for me to grasp the “new stuff” enough to finally get back and start connect it with the “old stuff”. I am curious to see where this journey will lead me to.
Editor’s note: I followed the PKM workshop in 2020 already. However, due to the pandemic, me fiddling with my blogging toolchain (I reworked my setup from the ground up based on Harold’s course), this post never made it to my blog. ↩︎
Personal Knowledge Management ↩︎
It sure was fun to revisit my presentation on Start your IA with Mobile from 10 years ago. I think at that time I didn’t even realize what privilege it was to speak along esteemed UI, UX and of course IA practicioners like Johanna Kollmann, Peter Boersma, Martin Belam or Oliver Reichenstein. ↩︎