I was able to grab onto a free copy of the September edition of The Global Knowledge Review (paid subscription required), but only recently read it. I found that the two most interesting articles were by people whose blogs I read regularly – Dave Pollard and Lilia Efimova. Dave’s piece was focused on "What do knowledge workers want?" He summed up his interviews with over 100 front line workers with these general statements on their needs:
I get what I need more effectively from conversations.
Knowledge gathering isn’t the best use of my time.
I prefer private knowledge stocks that I don’t trust others enough to share.
I’m a front line worker in my team of one and I thought about how I’ve been managing my knowledge for the past couple of years. I’ve already mentioned the benefits of blogging, so I’ll take it from there.
My blog forces me to make tacit some of my implicit thoughts and ideas. It also gives a place for some (rather limited) conversation through referrals from other bloggers and comments on this site. The real value is having a searchable database of these tacit tidbits. I probably search this site at least once a day, looking for something that I vaguely remember, in order to put it into a report or an e-mail, etc.
Recently, I’ve noticed that I’m commenting on other blogs more than writing on my own. I find this to be more intellectually stimulating and much better for my own learning. With about 100 blogs in my feed reader, there is always something to learn. Tracking these conversations is much more difficult, as different platforms have their unique requirements for following a conversation’s thread. It’s better than the traditional threaded discussion forum, though I still engage in some of these.
The other tool that helps a lot is Furl. This provides another tagged, searchable database of interesting websites. Furl also caches a copy for personal use, so the website will always be there for reference. Furl is very quick and easy to use, and great for sharing sites on a particular topic. For instance, I have a public education category to share with my wife.
Skype (voice over IP) is letting me have more and longer voice conversations. I use the free, computer to computer function for several hours at a time when I’m working with distributed teams. Free telephone service sure helps when your project partners are 3,000 km away.
So to get back to Dave’s statements on what knowledge workers want, I think that as an independent consultant, with my own blog and some free tools like Bloglines and Furl:
I get most of what I need from general written conversations and specific oral conversations – online (though I still like face-to-face discussions).
Knowledge gathering is a good use of some of my time because I’ve developed a few efficient processes.
I still keep some private knowledge stocks, but use the public ones more often.
These cheap and simple tools have made the job of knowledge worker much easier, at least for those of us outside the typical corporate policies and firewalls.