You have probably heard of knowledge management at the organizational level when business companies and law firms implement the best practices for capturing and sharing knowledge. Lawyers are knowledge workers, they process information all the time. They are also life-long learners whose expertise depends on keeping up to date with the increasing body of law and business practices. Is it possible to apply the knowledge management principles to the work of an individual? Is there a benefit to doing so? Many experts believe that the answer is “yes.” Let’s look at the three main areas of personal knowledge management: “know-what,” “know-who,” and “know-how,” and see how lawyers can benefit from this concept.
Know-what. This is about the content of knowledge. What do you need to know in order to achieve your goals? What are the sources of your knowledge? What’s the context for the knowledge application?
Know-who. This category is about who you know. What are your networks? Who are the experts you go to for knowledge? Who is in need of your knowledge?
Know-how. This is about how to perform the knowledge-related tasks so as to increase productivity. What are the best ways to harvest knowledge in the right context just-in-time, make sense of it, create new knowledge, share it, and use it? What’s the role of technology in this process?
Lawyers have routinely done all the above activities without any system, so why do they need personal knowledge management now? Here are a few reasons to consider.
- First, there has been a dramatic increase in information available to us on a daily basis. Things change faster than they used to. As Kineo’s company website says: “Don’t wake up dumber than you went to bed.” A well-devised personal knowledge management system can help to conquer the information overflow and gain control over your learning experience. I like to use the information funnel analogy. Ordinarily, we pour in lots of information through the wide opening of the funnel to bottle up only a few drops of knowledge. What if we turned the funnel over and introduce a system of filters that would allow only relevant information to come in when we need it to produce a much larger knowledge output. Isn’t it worthwhile to invest some time and effort in developing such a system?
- Second, the personal knowledge management system can help you to align your everyday activities with your values and goals. For example, I get easily sidetracked by some interesting information that I stumble upon on the internet and can spend hours just reading about it. The system helps me to stay focused and disciplined about my projects, or at least, that’s the hope.
- Third, lawyers are in the service profession, and service is about relationships. How much time do you spend on consciously developing and nurturing your important relationships? Do you know who the experts are in your field? Who can you turn to for help? The personal knowledge management system will force you to take responsibility for this important aspect of your life.
- Fourth, technology helps us to stay productive, but technology is developing very rapidly these days. It takes a purposeful effort to keep up. The personal knowledge management system can help you to make choices about what technology is important for your business and get updates when something new comes to the market.
- Fifth, the personal knowledge management system can help you to organize, classify and retrieve the necessary knowledge efficiently. Do you have a system to index and file your documents and email messages? Do you use news aggregators? What search tools are available to you? There is a lot you can do to save time and effort.
- Finally, the process of developing your knowledge management system can reveal some new insights about you as a learner and build self-awareness. Your system should be about you and how you learn. It should capitalize on your strengths and drive you to achieve the best results you can.
Do you already have a personal knowledge management system? Do you want to develop one? Please share your experiences.