Friday, October 12, 2007

Personal Knowledge Management

I am at a knowledge management conference today. The personal knowledge management session is focusing on ways to rethink knowledge management.

Where are we now? Knowledge management has spent a lot of time fiddling with content, finding ways to serve it up and berating people to use our systems.

The current trajectory of knowledge management is to have grand plans with bigger budgets and expanding the staff. With all of this investment, the system needs to be fail-safe. If they fail (and they do most of the time) we engage people to figure out why it did not get used.

Maybe we should concentrate on personal systems and less on firm-wide systems?

Should knowledge management adopt the Ayn Rand philosophy: Forget the collective good and focus on the individual.

Train front line lawyers to implement personal KM and KM specialist to coach the lawyers and provide the necessary tools to implement personal KM. Coach attorneys to help develop personal knowledge base, give them the platforms and systems to implement their personal knowledge base, and mine those systems to leverage across the firm.

To create a personal knowledge base, we need a strategy for transforming the random bits of information and transform it into a usable system. It is important for others in the attorney's network and for the firm to be able to harvest the individual's personal knowledge management systems.

Things like shared folders in the document management system, blogs and wikis provide simple and easy to use tools to collect information that can be harvested by others.

Does training for these personal knowledge management systems require personal training? It is hard to get attorneys into training rooms. (It is hard to get anyone into a training room). One firm has one-on-one training sessions in the attorney's office. This allows them find out what the attorney does not know and expand on the tools that work best for their practice and their workflow. It was also useful to show that attorney how other attorneys use the various tools. The benefit of the one-on-one training is that is removes the possible stigma of being identified as not knowing how to use popular tools.

Should be also make this personal knowledge system to be portable? Departing attorneys are going to take stuff with them when they leave. It may be controversial, but it is going to happen anyway. The portability could be another incentive to contribute, knowing they can take it with them. (I think we need to make sure they only take a copy.)

Part of the role of knowledge management will be to get the attorneys to use platforms that can leveraged across the enterprise. Collecting shortcuts that can shared with others is a useful to gather information for the individual, but can be harvested by others.

Incorporating the narrative is an important part of KM training. People respond to stories (particularly failure stories) better than they do to statistics and databases.

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