The Power of Pull and PKM

The Power of Pull by John Hagel, John Seely Brown & Lang Davison looks at how digital networks and the need for long-term relationships that support the flow of tacit knowledge are radically changing the nature of the enterprise as we know it. It is also an excellent reference book for understanding many facets of personal knowledge mastery. I have had this book on my reading list for quite some time and luckily Jay Cross gave me a copy which I read on the flight back from the west coast this week.

PKM helps people stay focused on the edges of their knowledge and look for innovation and opportunity. I have written, in embrace chaos, that I think the edge will be where almost all high value work gets done in organizations. Core activities will be increasingly automated or outsourced. Value is moving to the edge. The core is being managed by fewer internal staff and any work where complexity is not the norm will be of diminishing value. PKM enables tacit knowledge flows from the edge to the core and back.

emergent value

“Edge Participants also often reach out to participants in the core in an effort to build relationships and enhance knowledge flows. But these efforts are often frustrated – or at best marginalized – because core participants are too busy concentrating on defensive strategies within the core, trying to protect their profits and position, to understand the true growth opportunities represented by relevant edges.” – The Power of Pull, p. 54

PKM is a process of moving knowledge from the edge (social networks) to the core (work teams) and back out to the edges. It is the way that Pull can be done on a daily basis. Connecting the edge (emergent & cooperative) to the core (controlled & automated) is a major challenge for organizations. Part of the solution is more open management frameworks but another part is edge-like individual skills and aptitudes. PKM covers the latter.

PKM is a continual process of seeking from the edge (networks), filtering through communities of practice (CoP) and sense-making at the core (work teams) and also sharing back out to our communities and networks. Once habituated, it’s like breathing.

PKM flow

As stated in the book, “Pull platforms tend to allow us to performa the following activities with a blurring of the boundaries between creation and use“, showing four components that map directly to Seek > Sense > Share.

  • Find (Seek)
  • Connect (Seek)
  • Innovate (Sense)
  • Reflect (Share)

As the authors write, “Pull is not a spectator sport.” Neither is PKM. I would highly recommend The Power of Pull as a reference book that looks at how organizations need to change and how individuals need to redefine the nature of work.

“The choices each of us makes about the environments we participate in and the practices and behaviors we choose to pursue once we’re there will make a crucial difference in what we experience and the extent to which we can shape these experiences or simply let random experiences shape us.”  The Power of Pull, p. 99

Chance favors the connected mind.” – Steven B. Johnson.

PKM 2013

4 Responses to “The Power of Pull and PKM”

  1. Howard

    I find this and your last post hang together in my thinking. I’m a great fan of Hagel et al and I’ve imagined an edge place where there is exposure to many other edges. A cognitive ecology that supports serendipity for edge thinking. I often visualize an artsy area, because artists are often people who try to push the boundaries out to new areas, new edges. Not artists as traditionally understood, but anyone pushing on the edge. My idea of a brick and mortar PKM space. The problem is that there is no way I can think of that would support the monetization of such an ecology, at least without new way of thinking about jobs and maintaining living standards. For one dystopian take, see

  2. Howard

    Yes Harold;
    Co-working spaces can be great spaces for learning, especially when it includes people who have a learning focus like yourself. It would be even better if the space was also nested inside an even larger and more diversity learning space.
    Would it not be a possible direction for universities? I mean, thinking of your byline “work is learning & learning is the work” what if universities were centers for learning and centers for working. I don’t think it is too far to conceive of a mentorship becoming a life-long collaboration.


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