pulling knowledge

Nick Milton discusses the knowledge cycle as you have never seen it before in a 2018 post. He says that most organizational knowledge management processes are focused on ‘Pushing’ knowledge and then discusses an alternative by ‘Pulling’ knowledge.

The diagram shown here is a cycle driven by knowledge demand — a “Pull cycle” — and it works like this.

• The cycle starts with a problem, and the identification of the need for knowledge to solve the problem (the “need to know”)
• The first step is to seek for that knowledge — to search online, and to ask others
• Seeking/asking is followed by finding
• However generally we tend to “over-find”. Unless we are lucky, or there is a very good KM system, we find more than we need, so the next step is to review the results and select those which seem most relevant in the context of the problem.
• This found knowledge then needs to be integrated into what is already known about the problem, and integrated into solutions, approaches, procedures and plans.
• Finally the integrated knowledge needs to be applied to the problem.

Personal knowledge mastery (PKM) is basically a Pull framework as well. It starts with Seeking, requires individual sensemaking, and only later sharing (pushing) which can inform collective sensemaking. I have described the processes in detail in working collaboratively and learning cooperatively.

PKM focuses on individual sense-making, but within a social context and in various networks. It is a self-directed way to develop our expertise, especially through loose relationships in our social networks and stronger ones in our communities of practice. The organization needs to support, not direct, these connections.

Team KM is based on narrating our work — often using enterprise social networks — so that everyone on a team knows what is going on and why. Decisions, and why they were made, are shared. New processes and methods are co-developed to create emergent practices. This method of work has to be supported by management by enabling — innovative and contextual methods, the self-selection of the most appropriate tools and work conditions, and willing cooperation between workers.

With PKM and Team KM in place, the organization can concentrate on curating the outputs of knowledge work. It provides the systems of record that can be searched and queried so that mistakes and exceptions are not repeated. Knowledge has to flow from implicit to explicit, understanding that its transfer remains messy and inexact. There must be flexibility at the individual level so that knowledge workers can develop trusted relationships over time. Knowledge resides in people, not the knowledge management system.

PKM can be added to existing organizational knowledge management processes in order to have Push AND Pull work together for optimal knowledge stock and flow.

Some knowledge is easy to codify, but most of our important knowledge is not. Explicit knowledge is easier to codify and more suitable for enterprise-wide initiatives, while implicit knowledge requires personal interpretation and engagement to make sense of it. The organization can help this knowledge to flow. Three related knowledge management (KM) processes are required — PKM, Team KM, and Org KM.

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