A new German book on Methods for the Personal Knowledge Management was published which will probably become one of the standard works over here: “Wissenswege” (Knowledge Roads). It contains 21 methods and tools, and for categorizing them, the authors developped a very neat theoretical framework, including a description language and a requirements grid (here my summary as .pps).
It is based solely on science from established publications (no Denham Grey, no George Siemens, no Stephen Downes). For me, however, it does not work. I have the impression that all the analytical dissections and definitions are somehow mincing, or missing, some of the most challenging problems that exist for a knowledge worker.
For example, a “knowledge object” is cleanly defined using two criteria:
- it must be usable not only today but also tomorrow, not only by an indivual but also by several or many; and
- it must be comprehensible by a third party.
So, all of my notes to self and excerpts, or the context-dependent notes that are exchanged within like-minded people’s networks – are not knowledge objects. Ok I learn from the book that the distinctions are only analytic, and the borders are blurred. But typical problems are just located at these borders that are not addressed. And the most interesting new technologies are just leveraging the affordances of media and tools that lie in between the pigeon-holes, that fall through the requirements grid. For instance, a blog is an intermediate between a short conference break conversation and a longish PDF article in a quarterly journal.
Similarly, the crucial problem of filing is IMO missed. The discussion of the method “categorization and classification” presents some purely hierarchical examples, without any cross reference techniques. A single last line (p. 91) mentions that new applications “such as tagging” offer current solutions. The advice from the framework is probably that I should consider my goals (efficiency vs. innovative, operational vs. strategic) when assigning folders. How would this lead to a filing approach, rather than to a fourfold number of categories?
For motivational issues, there is the “(paradoxical) advice that you simply ‘must want'” and that “the will is an interesting construct” (p. 162) which will probably not solve the typical GTD problems addressed in my last post.
If you understand German, you should definitely obtain this thought-provoking book.