Blogging as part of a…

Blogging as part of a personal knowledge management strategy.

I Think of It More Like My Brain’s “Memory Stick”. My Blog, My Outboard Brain by Cory Doctorow

“As a committed infovore, I need to eat roughly six times my weight in information every day or my brain starts to starve and atrophy. I gather information from many sources: print, radio, television, conversation, the Web, RSS feeds, email, chance, and serendipity. I used to bookmark this stuff, but I just ended up with a million bookmarks that I never revisited and could never find anything in.

Theoretically, you can annotate your bookmarks, entering free-form reminders to yourself so that you can remember why you bookmarked this page or that one. I don’t know about you, but I never actually got around to doing this — it’s one of those get-to-it-later eat-your-vegetables best-practice housekeeping tasks like defragging your hard drive or squeegeeing your windshield that you know you should do but never get around to.

Until I started blogging. Blogging gave my knowledge-grazing direction and reward. Writing a blog entry about a useful and/or interesting subject forces me to extract the salient features of the link into a two- or three-sentence elevator pitch to my readers, whose decision to follow a link is predicated on my ability to convey its interestingness to them. This exercise fixes the subjects in my head the same way that taking notes at a lecture does, putting them in reliable and easily-accessible mental registers….

Being deprived of my blog right now would be akin to suffering extensive brain-damage. Huge swaths of acquired knowledge would simply vanish. Just as my TiVo frees me from having to watch boring television by watching it for me, my blog frees me up from having to remember the minutae of my life, storing it for me in handy and contextual form.”

I find that Cory’s reasons for blogging echo my own, and that I am reaping the same benefits. It’s the opening up and sharing that makes it possible, whereas before I would send a link to a few select people. It also gives me the opportunity to explore my thoughts and ideas more fully, having to flesh them out into actual concepts I have to articulate. It’s helped me connect the dots in my own mind, and luckily it’s all centrally stored on my blog.

Hopefully I’ll be able to impart this vision and explain the advantages to my colleagues when I start implementing Radio for internal KM.

[The Shifted Librarian]

In my wrap-up Tuesday night, we talked about the notion of having a personal KM strategy. If knowledge is your craft, you have a responsibility to maintain and develop your tools and your craft.

When we talk about learning organizations and about knowledge management practices, it can be easy to lose sight of this personal dimension. We think about the problem in terms of what ‘they’ ought to be doing. This problem is aggravated by the fact that senior level executives don’t have a lot of knowledge management problems of their own. They have assistants and staffs whose fundamental role is to be the executive’s KM system. Most of us are not so fortunate.

Tom Davenport wrote an interesting piece on the notion of personal information environments in CIO magazine quite some time back. It’s still a good introduction to the notion, although I would take it up a level. Managing the details of your information life is a starting point,  but we need to do more if we take a knowledge perspective.

Blogging is one piece of the puzzle as Cory’s comments capture nicely. Not only do you have that link to something that has caught your attention and interest, but you have an opportunity to boil down the ‘so what’ that warranted that attention.

The other thing that blogging can do for you is create raw material for your learning and reflection.  This works on at least two levels. When you create an entry, you have to do some thinking and reflection. That alone puts you way ahead of most of the pack. And, as you do it over time, your skill at thinking, reflecting, and writing will all improve, which will make you a more effective knowledge worker.

It’s the next level, however, that creates a long-term amplifier for your knowledge work productivity. You now have a chronological trace of what you thought at the time. You have something you can examine to understand how your thinking and insights have evolved over time.

Now, there is a question of how much of this you choose to share publicly. Most of what I’ve said so far works whether you publish your weblog or not. Although there is an advantage of visualizing an audience to help you distill your thinking. Warren McFarlan at the Harvard Business School was one of the professors who dragged me through my doctoral program.  He used to joke that one of the worst aspects of being an academic, especially in a fast-moving field like information technology, was that there was a public record of every dumb idea you’d ever had. On the other hand, if you have the guts to put the ideas out there, you also get the opportunity to test and refine them.

Fundamentally it’s the difference between doing real science vs. crank science. The only way to tell the difference in the end is whether you’re prepared to open yourself up to criticism. Putting yourself on record is the first step in that process.

[McGee’s Musings]