We talk a lot about PKM – personal knowledge management, i.e. KM for individuals – but as Nick Milton indicated recently, at heart KM is a collective effort; when done well it becomes the effort of social learning.
Where do the two scales (individual – social) really connect?
Let us assume that KM is about conversations, documentation and learning. That’s what I do. My friend Jaap Pels has his own framework (embedded in this program’s theory of change) but it speaks to this foundation very much too.
Since I want to build on the equation KM = CDL and want to explore how individual and collective spaces interact, I am starting a journey, here and now, exploring a possible framework (on a series I’ll call ‘Anatomy of learning’) which is progressively shaping up in my mind.
The starting point here is this graph from Jaap and the related set of activities, particularly learning: at a personal level, what do we do about learning?
- We sometimes focus (we seek, Harold Jarche might say); I’d say we sometimes envision, we sometimes simply seek, we often just stumble upon stuff… But whatever it is, there is a relation between us and different sets of information that we are interested in or engaging with;
- How do we create that relation and let it develop from there? We read, we chat, we just relate ideas in our head and it makes us realise some connections in information. Contrary, perhaps, to Jaap I’d argue that it’s not just in the conversations that we learn, though conversations are terrific learning teasers. Yet sometimes we just start exploring something with ourselves, on our own – like me on this blog – and the reel of thread starts unfolding little by little;
- As we make connections we may decide to register these by documenting our thoughts, readings, conversations, to single out patterns and slice through them. Or we simply add these connections to our existing thought system, as updated appendices to our previous insights on the matter;
- In the process we thus transform our mental pictures, our interests: we codify data into information through our knowledge capacity, either into something that becomes unconscious, something that becomes obvious, something that starts to become apparent (an emerging pattern) or something that just starts puzzling us because we’re early on our journey to get our head around it.
So we end up with a quadrant of insights like this, vaguely relating to the Cynefin framework:
|Stuff that starts to become apparentWe need to discuss this further (or do something about it)
|Stuff that becomes obviousWe need (us and others) to do something about it as we understand how it works
|Stuff that starts puzzling usWe need to unravel this (alone / together)
|Stuff that becomes (or adds on to our) unconscious competenceWe don’t need to do anything about it except occasionally update it
Some might think we follow these steps in a linear and ideal manner, but we don’t. Ever. Or only for very short dashes of time. And then our human nature kicks in again, like a Pavlovian reflex rebelling against routine, against what is good vs. what feels good. We return to random. Thank goodness for that. We’re not robots!
But just like practice doesn’t make perfect – purposeful practice does – it takes regular efforts to expand the field of our conscious incompetence (remember this?), and that happens more easily with others at our side, exploring together.
So the next step in this journey will be to look at other scales related to us as individuals – how learning moves from individual to become collective, or event social – something which I’m sure will turn clearer as I delve into Julian Stodd’s book ‘Exploring the world of social learning‘.
In the meantime, any light is welcome as ever 🙂