Discerning with whom and when to share

Nick Milton talks about why knowledge does not get “re-used” very easily. Even if knowledge is captured it is not always used by others and Nick cites several blockers:

  • the knowledge was not to hand when they needed it

  • they had no time to go looking for the knowledge

  • they may not trust the provenance of the knowledge

  • the knowledge did not solve an immediate pain, but was more of a long term benefit (see blog post on why some ideas spread and others don’t).

  • they could get away with doing things the way they had always done, even though the new way was better.

In the PKM framework of Seeking, Sensing & Sharing, the latter may seem easy but it does not always equate to other people finding the knowledge artifacts that you have created while seeking & sense-making. For example, I can quickly find something on my blog in the thousands of posts here, that would take someone else much longer. I have the contextual memory of having created each post. This is why it’s also important to incorporate what I call the discern component of sharing.

Seek > Sense > Share

Since it is easier for me to find something I have created, then I should be open to opportunities to share, in order to optimize knowledge management in my workplace. My knowledge artifacts are almost always more “at hand” to me than to others. This is why PKM practices are so important in organizational knowledge management, but are often overlooked. So far, only humans are good at recognizing all the contextual signals in the workplace, making implicit connections, and then identifying something that might be useful to share.

One example of discernment is in “closing triangles“. This is when one person introduces two unknown associates to each other, thus closing the triangle. Discerning when to do this is also important. It would not make sense to make professional introductions as one person is going on a long vacation or when the other is extremely busy with an unrelated project. Sensing the right time and place to make connections is important in network weaving. It’s the same with sharing knowledge.

Integrating PKM practices with organizational knowledge management can help knowledge to flow better and not remain knowledge stock in some database. This takes time, practice, and a good sense of what others are doing. Discernment, like PKM,  requires mindfulness.

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