Barriers to PKM

A few weeks ago I asked my extended online network, “What do you think is the biggest fear/need/barrier when it comes to adopting personal knowledge management (PKM) as a practice?

Finding someone to talk to about PKM was a common response, as was the observation that management’s perception is often that not everyone has the same level of ability to do PKM sufficiently well. Management thinks PKM is only for certain, higher-level employees (it’s not). Also listed were fear of technology and fear of complexity, and I see these as two sides of the same coin. Network technologies make things more complex as there are exponentially more connections and possibilities. The complexity of multiple perspectives and solutions can be quite confusing. In PKM, there is no test and no answer sheet, only deeper questions, but an expanding network to help you.

Some people cited a lack of time management skills to make room in the day for changing and learning. Other listed difficulties in being able to build relationships or dealing with too wide of a range of topics. Perhaps the latter is a byproduct of our education systems where we concentrate on only a few subjects at a time, and seldom make connections between them. One person in our PKM Workshop said that sharing what you really think and finding your real voice is a major challenge for those not used to capturing and sharing their learning.

In my opinion, a major barrier to adopting PKM practices is the perception that it will take more time, when in fact, most people waste a lot of time on existing work habits that could be changed. Another reason is the baggage of our education and training systems, which tell us that we cannot learn for ourselves and need an expert or teacher to always guide us. The image below is from a post I wrote 5 years ago, on what is weighing down learning, but is still relevant I think. PKM practices can help people take off those weights. You might call it the PKM Weight Reduction Program for self-directed and peer-supported learning.

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3 Responses to “Barriers to PKM”

  1. Brent MacKinnon

    I really like how your iceberg image depicts how the education system affects our ability to participate in PKM.

    The 4 categories capture the deep seated antagonism I had as I plodded my way through academia. I’ve been thinking about barriers a lot as I work with others on social learning in the workplace and integrating social media in their practice. I’m recognizing how commonplace it is for practitioners (including me) to avoid experiences that result in feeling vulnerable. Sharing, learning together, testing out ideas in public etc. means making yourself vulnerable to others.

    I’m adding that condition to my list of barriers and work on some probes/activities to help loosen vulnerability conditioning (another product of our Modern Educational System).

    Thanks again Harold for your PKM framework. It’s helping me understand (and be a better practitioner) the building blocks that make for more productive outcomes.

  2. jay cross

    Harold, I think management’s skepticism of PKM is an expression of lack of trust and desired for control. It’s another facet of Pull overtaking Push as the default way we filter information. Pull&Push boils down to “Who’s in charge here?” Denying that PKM is useful at all levels is the same as saying “I don’t trust you guys to think for yourselves.”

  3. Joitske Hulsebosch

    Interesting observations and I recognise the idea that we need a teacher/trainer to guide us. However, I also observe that people do see how much they learn in practice. In this case an obstacle is often not knowing the direction of learning (focus) or not thinking that you have to develop continuously. And I do wonder if it is the case for all professionals that they have to develop themselves continuously. This need may be stronger for some groups than for other groups?