The 'Management' in Personal Knowledge Management can lead to many false conclusions

8/19/2022 | Christian Kreutz
Learn to ride a bicycle is very different than learning from books - personal knowledge management
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For at least two decades, personal knowledge management (PKM) has been a popular concept to describe how individuals can organize their information more efficiently for more quality output. I have wondered how the term "management" made it into this concept. After some personal learning, I believe the concept is misleading for beginners who want to set up or improve their personal knowledge process.

First, let's look at the difference between information and knowledge. Information is the content in documents, emails, websites, etc. But if you read a manual for a machine, you still need to apply the instructions to use the device. Documents are someone else’s codified knowledge, but far from becoming your wisdom. It is almost impossible to read a guide to ride a bicycle. You have to practice until you learn it, not to mention master it.

You can organize documents, emails or notes in folders or structure these in various ways. This library of texts can be great for fast information retrieval (search) or to have great information handy to write articles. But these information silos are not personal knowledge. Most of the PKM systems and tools I have seen over the past years focus entirely on the management part of information and ignore the hard part of applying what you read to become your knowledge.

Take any book from your shelf and ask yourself what you still remember about it. You need to apply what you read into your thinking and establish reflection processes, e.g. discussing it with a friend or writing about it to shift from the management of information to personal knowledge.