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A PKM Clean start

It took me a while to realize that I don’t have a PKM framework and an associated strategy.

Wait! Bruno, you, the bright mastermind of Kneaver, the killing PKM app you don’t have a well-crafted, super exciting framework to offer? So it means you just pretended?

No, this was an aha moment I had while reading Stan Garfield roundup of links on PKM. I read it and saw all the definitions of PKM people used.

Nobody agrees on anything substantial. Some talk about Knowledge, others about information management, others of curation, about getting things done, time management, productivity, building courses, sharing their work. It’s just a huge cacophony around unspecified, undefined terminology. If you can agree on the meaning of the words you use it’s not likely something valuable can be got out of it. It’s a bit like the Wild West epoch. Each is doing his law around him so as to fit his plans.

I did write about PKM too, adding my voice to the noise. I may have done an error.

In fact, this idea was latent for a while.

I don’t believe in models, though leaders and cookie cutter frameworks. I’m agnostic as a rule.

Most people really talk about information whenever they use the word knowledge. Reading blog posts, ruminating 5 minutes on them, sharing them, curation as nothing to do with knowledge.

We don’t even share a good definition of Knowledge. It ranges from a list of country flags, knowing enough to be aware, able to make sense to the higher levels where you can put this knowledge to work, use it and not only share it further.

Sensemaking is not enough to rebuild knowledge from information. In fact with most people I have seen using this, their resulting capabilities of making sense of incoming information doesn’t rate much better than anybody else. I’ve not been impressed by the pertinence and reliability of conclusions or papers shared. So in my view, it’s pretty inefficient.

When I describe my work, my domain with everybody I’ve seen that Knowledge by itself is more a repulsive than anything else. For my plumber knowledge is a sacred grail some very educated people , scholars, possess. They don’t associate what they learn every day from experience with knowledge. So a product or a process to manage knowledge is just as useless as a range of shiny books on a topic they are not motivated to read.


Why are we obsessed with ‘knowledge’ when it not so popular?

Why do we pretend we manage knowledge when we merely manage information, often only documents without reading them.

Why do we focus on Knowledge when we are not even able to have a good definition of it and don’t master the very elementary processes like learning.

Take learning: Most professionals will tell you that we don’t know when learning happen. We can create good conditions, we can have good results but we are not able to locate and measure the process itself. There are tons of writings on learning, theories built out of thin air with no proofs, no supporting scientific research (just academic research). The truth is that the domain is not yet well known and we barely know anything.

So we end up with tricks, best practices highly personal that works for one, not for another. This was not the idea of PKM. PKM is really just KM. It has been named so because KM was used for organizational Knowledge Management. A practice even fewer people are aware of.

The only real knowledge is the personal one. It’s a configuration of memory in our neurons that allows performance to reproduce behaviors and execute tasks.

The only processes dealing with our knowledge are those operating on this configuration of neurons. aha! that’s not easy to describe. As we saw above even learning is not well know. Creativity, enhancing knowledge from experience, reorganizing it, moving between tacit, and explicit and articulated knowledge are still subject to lots of research and assumptions.

Curating, for example, is not a knowledge process. We apply knowledge about curation on information in another domain that we temporary, partially load into our working memory to analyze it. The effect of curation will not be learning beyond awareness, the level of commenting on it will not be based on our knowledge unless we have this knowledge already and curate for others. Again in this case it’s a service we offer to the community but it doesn’t change our own knowledge. hence it’s not a knowledge process and it’s not part of PKM.

With this definition of PKM we see that we have something very limited, pretty complex and challenging to deal with.

I do have some ideas of what I wish to see in PKM but to start with, let’s do a grand cleanup. Let’s start with a clean slate as said Michelle ockers in her video this morning.

1) I don’t have a PKM process
2) I don’t have a PKM strategy
3) I don’t have a PKM product

I place myself back in the total beginner mindset.

What I have are tools and practices to deal with significant streams and chunks of information coming to me.

Yet I acknowledge that a strategy would be a good thing. Every day I collect tons of fragments in my journal. I do apply some treatment to them, depending on judgment I never really formalized. Eventually, what happens is that I take a decision for each of them. A complete decision process is undergone as if each piece was a new case. This is very tiring. I can do it but I can hardly advise anyone to do the same.

What I learned from habits and keeping sustainable habits is that the decision should be removed from the execution. For a while every morning I was starting my day with a short gym. The habit was in place but I allowed myself to decide every day of I was willing to do this gym. I was hesitating, pondering various options, circumstances.

This lasted for several years until I realized that this decision just shouldn’t take place. The habit should just be ‘start it’, #LetsDothis like Shannon likes to say. The habit is not about completing the gym, but about starting it. There is no decision to take because it was taken once for all that this little effort was good for me despite my reluctance to start my day with it. by adjusting the decision from ‘do the full gym’ to ‘start the gym’ it became very easy and natural. Since I did this shift I rarely miss a day.

So having a well-documented strategy of how I deal with every bit of information I come across would relieve me, just the same as the gym, of this accumulation of small decisions I need to take. It would allow me to automate a lot of it and use low energy moments to do it.

Because I start with every kind of information it encompasses almost everything but it’s easy to define. Everything that get’s into my hands or in a process I automated. There will be tasks, todo items, things I kept just in case, links, copies of information from Internet, notes on reading, notes on what I do (execution, project related notes). Things I learned, things I wish to learn. personal and professional mixed.

There will no more be a split between data, information, and Knowledge.
There will no more be a difference between PIM, PD, PKM, CMS, GTD, There will be no differences between time management, productivity tracking, narrating what I do, takeaways from learning.

This is just for a time, to restart from a clean slate. the time it takes to find new structures not influenced by existing paradigms. It can last a few months. It could be part of the 30 days of challenge by @Stipton and my idea of generating 8 new business ideas. later in the year I will sort, do choices, and prioritize.

My conclusion

– Remove temporarily the word ‘knowledge’ from my vocabulary until I have a really good definition and good hints for processes on it. Meanwhile, use Information where I used knowledge.

– Document which type of information comes into my hands and I should deal with it at best, with or without tools.

– Rebuild from there.

What I expect as I will track and narrate this reconstruction is to uncover processes I was doing unconsciously, unmindfully. First uncover them, then brainstorm and eventually make them way stronger and powerfull by taking a fresh look without prior structure inherited from the past.

It could very well not be named PKM 🙂 Not very important, my plumber don’t know about PKM anyway. If he searches he think experience, productivity, information, learning, development. no PKM.