Active sense-making

Yesterday, during my presentation on personal knowledge management to IBM BlueIQ I was asked about the role of blogging in my own sense-making processes. For almost seven years, my blog has been where I try to make sense of my observations. I’ve called it my home base. As I’ve said before, this blog is mostly for me. These are my half-baked thoughts which I make public in order to share and to learn. Many posts get built upon or edited several times and may become part of a longer article or white paper. Most of what is posted here is raw material. Much of the nuance or context is in the flow of the conversations here over the years. The process is often more important than the product.

In my Seek>Sense>Share model, seeking and annotating information is important but cannot stand on its own. As much as I may add feeds into my RSS reader, bookmark web pages or upload photos, these are nothing more than senseless digital constructs until I put them to use. Seeking information is an important foundation to PKM online but it’s of little use without action. The sense-making part of the process requires action and it takes practice to be good at it. How to make sense of one’s experiences is up to the individual. Sense-making is an activity, a regular practice. It can be as simple as creating a list (Filtering) or as complicated as a thesis (Customization). People with better sense-making skills are able to create higher value information and when this is shared, they contribute to their networks. This strikes me as the core of collaborative knowledge work.

I added a sense-making activity about a year ago when I realized I was losing track of what I was finding on Twitter. I could have saved interesting tweets to my social bookmarks but instead I decided to do a weekly review of what I had found. This requires little effort during the week, other than clicking the “favorite” star. At the end of the week, I re-read these tweets and their links and then decide which ones are still of interest. The activity of reading, writing and perhaps commenting helps to internalize some of the knowledge. The result is Friday’s Finds and a byproduct is that some other people find it interesting and useful as well.

4 Responses to “Active sense-making”

  1. Krispijn Beek

    Interesting read, also very useful. I will send a link to this post to my colleagues working on knowledge management (and try to incorporate the discipline of friday’s finds or something similar).

  2. Rick Ladd

    Hi Harold:

    I have been on this journey from employee to whatever the hell it is I’m heading toward for only a few months, so I’m still learning a lot about how to traverse these spaces. One of the first lessons I learned, which related to blogging, was from Euan Semple. I was reading his explanation of why he called his blog “The Obvious?” and said, “I called it [that] when I wrote anonymously and chose the name to reflect the fact I have to overcome my inhibitions about stating the obvious! My lesson from Euan was that not everyone sees things the same way, and I have a unique viewpoint that may (or may not) be of value to others.

    Now, though I’ve connected with you through Twitter and other venues, your message is finally impinging on my thick skull and I’m hearing what you have to say. What I’m getting at here is the way you use your blog. For the last two decades and more I have worked at a place where it was far more important to keep one’s mouth shut than to risk saying the wrong thing, especially if – like me – you weren’t an Engineer/Rocket Scientist. The thought of using a blog to make sense of my observations was anathema at Rocketdyne, but it seems like a no-brainer otherwise . . . now that you’ve pointed it out to me, that is.

    Although I’ve been doing KM in the aerospace industry for over a decade, and recently received a Masters degree in it from Cal State Northridge, there are times (and this is one of them) when I feel like a complete neophyte. Thanks for sharing. I’m most appreciative for having connected with folks like you and Luis.


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