What is PKM?  - Last Updated (Thursday, 09 September 2004)

Overview of Personal Knowledge Management

By Professor Paul A. Dorsey


The concept of Personal Knowledge Management, as outlined below, was developed by Professor Paul Dorsey and elaborated and made concrete in a web site called PKMNet by Jonathon Goade, a Millikin University graduate (2000) and Scovill Award winner (1999), who completed PKMNet as part of his James Millikin Scholar project.  Jason Frand of the Anderson School of Management at UCLA has used the concept of Personal Knowledge Management to describe a more limited set of information and knowledge management practices that are integrated into the Anderson School MBA Program.  Dorsey has had extensive discussions with Frand as part of his work in developing the PKM concept.


Personal Knowledge Management should be viewed as a set a problem-solving skills that have both a logical or conceptual as well as physical or hands-on component.  These are skills that will be required for successful knowledge work in the twenty-first century.  These skills should be interwoven into programs of university general education and into academic major programs; both general purpose (such as MS Office) and more specialized (such as disciplinary) tools can facilitate the practice of Personal Knowledge Management.  Teaching PKM entails teaching both intelligent practices that guide the use of tools as well as intelligent and efficient use of the tools themselves.


The seven PKM skills are: 

(1) retrieving information;

(2) evaluating/assessing information;

(3) organizing information;

(4) analyzing information;

(5) presenting information;

(6) securing information; and

(7) collaborating around information.  The significance of each of the seven is clarified below:


(1) Retrieving information.  Underlying the PKM skill of retrieving information is everything from the low-tech skills of asking questions and listening and following up to the more complex skills of searching for information using Internet search engines, electronic library databases, and relational databases.    Concepts of widening and narrowing one’s search, Boolean logic, and iterative search practices are an important part of the effective exercise of this PKM skill.


(2) Evaluating information.  This entails not only being able to the judge the quality of information, but to determine its relevance to some question or problem at hand.  Though this has no necessary computer mechanism for implementation (though Internet search engines have crude relevant raters), the greater availability of information in the current information-rich environments makes this skills of far greater importance.


(3) Organizing information.  This entails using various tools to draw connections between items of information. In the manual environment, we use file folders, drawers, and other mechanism for organizing information; in more high-tech environments, we use electronic folders, relational databases, and web pages.  Effective organizational principles must underlie effective implementation of information organization regardless of the environment.


(4) Analyzing Information.  This entails the challenge of “tweaking” meaning out of data.  Integral to analyzing information is the development and application of models, often quantitative, to “educe” relationships out of the data.  Tools such as electronic spreadsheets and statistical software provide the means to analyze information, but the human element is central in framing the models that are embodied in that software.


(5) Presenting Information.  The key aspect of presenting information is the centrality of audience.  Presenting information—whether through PowerPoint presentation, web site, or text—builds on principles of chunking information to enable audiences to understand, remember, and connect.  Web styles and monographs on designing web site usability provide concrete content for this PKM skill.

(6) Securing Information.  While securing information is a different kind of PKM skill than the other six, it is no less important.  Securing information entails developing and implementing practices that assure the confidentiality, quality, and actual existence of information.  Practices of password management, backup, archiving, and use of encryption are important elements of this effectively practiced PKM skill.


(7) Collaborating Around Information.  Increasingly information technology tools called groupware are being provided to support collaborative work.  To use that technology effectively requires not just understanding how to use those tools, but understanding underlying principles of effective collaborative work.  Principle of e-mail etiquette are an illustration of important knowledge underlying the effective exercise of this PKM skill.


(Taken from Goade’s work) “It should be noted, however, that these are problem solving skills and not problem definition skills.  The PKM information skills take for granted that either

 1) the problem to be solved is already defined or

2) the person doing the problem solving has knowledge enough of the problem to adequately define it.

 “Once a problem is defined, each one of these skills can be seen as a step taken toward the solution of the problem.  Although the skills have a natural linear flow from one to the next, these PKM skills do not necessarily have to be used in any particular order.  Also, the PKM skills may be used in an iterative fashion (e.g., after the evaluation step you may find the need to retrieve more information).  For the most part, the “solution of a problem” can be seen as an informed decision or series of informed decisions that remedy the problem.”


The major product of Jonathon Goade’s JMS project is PKMNET, a web-based set of learning modules that teaches information skills in an in-context fashion.  PKMNet, which will continue to be developed, and used, in Jonathon’s absence under Dorsey’s direction, provides both some originally developed materials as well as web links to Internet sites that provide guidance in effective Personal Knowledge Management.  While the current focus of PKMNet is to provide support for the undergraduate Introduction to Computers course and the MBA workshop on Personal Computer Skills, its modular nature will make possible an extended use to support a broad array of curricular uses.


Detailed link: http://www.millikin.edu/webmaster/seminar/pkm.html