The grassroots are where knowledge management must begin

There’s been a running debate around the notion of personal knowledge management. See the recent posts by Nancy White, Roland Tanglao’s excellent coverage of the recent BlogTalk 2.0 sessions (here and here), and any of Denham’s recent posts on the subject. Denham has consistently argued that the notion is a dry hole and that you can’t talk about knowledge management without talking about social and small group interaction.

My decision to focus on the individual knowledge worker as a starting point for knowledge management grew out of my disappointments with large-scale, centralized approaches to knowledge management. I’ve seen too much technophilic empire-building delivering marginal organizational value to believe that any real progress can come from that direction.

The grassroots are where knowledge management must begin. Either the individual knowledge worker or the workgroup can be powerful starting points. Both are more promising than well-intentioned efforts from a center out of touch with the mess and chaos to be found down in the dirt.

I prefer starting at the individual knowledge worker because it is a strategy that requires no permission from anyone to implement. Whether you are in an organization that is smart or stupid about knowledge work and knowledge management, you can put your own house in order. You don’t stop there, of course. That lets you contribute that much more to Denham’s workgroup focus.

Community of one?. In a recent article, Steve Barth makes the case for mastering “mundane”(PKM) tools and techniques before individuals can really contribute to community knowledge practices. Steve recalls that “we can each only perceive our networks from the perspective of our own… [Knowledge-at-work]