Knowledge management matters more to you than to your organization

I gave a talk on Saturday for ChicagoLand PMI about why knowledge workers needed to develop strategies and the supporting habits and practices to manage and develop their know how across organizations and across time. If you’re interested you can find a copy of my slides on Slideshare.

Knowledge management as buzzword and practice originated in solving organizational problems. That’s where the big, obvious, problems are as well as the budgets. But the roots of the problem lie in the changing nature of work and careers at the individual level.

My father worked for three organizations in his career; I’ve worked for twenty so far and the number is likely to climb. Some might argue that this reflects either a severe case of ADD or a general inability to hold a job. Regardless, the trend is real; knowledge workers will work for more organizations and have shorter tenures at each. Organizations worry about the knowledge retention problems this creates; I’m more interested in the knowledge management problems it creates for individuals. I am aware of a handful of people who are also thinking about this; Harold Jarche, Luis Suarez. If you know of others, I would love to hear about it. 

The nub of my concern is this. You cannot rely on your memory and the experience it encodes. You also can no longer rely on having access to the institutional memory and artifacts of any one organization to supplement your limited human capabilities. You ought to be thinking about and planning for how you will accumulate knowledge and expertise over time. What personal infrastructure should you be building that can travel with you? How should you adapt your work habits and practices to simultaneously deliver value to your organization and enhance the value of your personal knowledge base? What new practices and skills do you need to add to your repertoire?

An online survey about personal knowledge management

I wanted to make you aware of a survey about personal knowledge management that’s currently underway that would benefit from your participation. Here are the details along with relevant background.

Survey for Knowledge Management (KM) Practitioners and Researchers

Hello! My name is Kate Bower, and I m a graduate student studying knowledge management, strategic change and leadership and development in the Learning and Organizational Change Program (MSLOC) at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Illinois. I m contacting you and others like you because you are familiar with the field of Knowledge Management (KM), in that you likely practice, study, research, instruct, coach or consult on KM to some degree. Your contact information was obtained through a personal connection or a public source, or this message has been forwarded to you by your own personal connection.

MSLOC program requirements include completion of a 9-month research project, called a Capstone. My Capstone project is focused on the concept of Personal Knowledge Management, or how we as individuals manage our own information and ideas. The purpose of this study is to determine whether individuals who consciously manage their personal knowledge also consciously manage other aspects of their behavior; the secondary purpose is to discover if people who self-describe as effective personal knowledge managers are also effective at managing their behavior in general.

The target participants for this research are individuals familiar with the concept of Knowledge Management in the sense I ve described above: people who practice, study, research, instruct, coach or consult on KM to some degree, as they are likely to be somewhat familiar with the concept of personal knowledge management (PKM).

If you are interested in participating in this study, please complete the online questionnaire, which can be found here. The survey is comprised of 2 open-ended questions and 39 multiple choice questions; it should take participants approximately 20 minutes to complete.

Please feel free to forward this message or the survey link to personal connections that also fit the description of the target participant group.

Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.


Kate Bower

Master’s Candidate
Learning and Organizational Change, Northwestern University 2010

I’ve had several opportunities to meet with Kate and discuss her research. I will keep you posted as she completes her efforts at Northwestern.