I’m writing my new book, Thinking It Out for knowledge workers. Yet the terms ‘knowledge worker’ and ‘Personal Knowledge Management’ (PKM) trouble me.
There is something very limiting about this emphasis on knowledge. Knowledge worker usually refers to people who work from a desk—although not always!––who use their knowledge to make decisions. Some of the people I know personally could be described as knowledge workers, but it is not sufficient. These friends produce some great work from their knowledge, yes; but it is so much more than the accumulation of knowledge.
My friend Mike, for example, commands a lot of knowledge, but his impact and influence extend way beyond this. When he stands up to speak, he is doing far more than merely regurgitating his learning. As Mike speaks, there is insight, connection, craft, presence and wisdom that he brings to bear out of a deep understanding of his audience and of the context of their lives. He is riveting in his relevance; it is far more than merely imparting knowledge.
Likewise, the same is true with PKM (Personal Knowledge Management). I do not like this term because it seems to put all the emphasis on knowing stuff, whereas I have learned that a good personally curated system helps me develop insight and, as others tell me, uncommon wisdom.
My father once told me when he discovered he could no longer keep to rhythm in dancing with my mother, when he found himself stumbling a lot and became hopeless at playing darts in his local pub. He was referred by his doctor to a specialist medical consultant. This medic had deliberately arranged his desk in his consulting room so he could see his patients as they walked in.
When my father entered with a slight shuffle, this consultant could immediately diagnose the early onset of Parkinson’s Disease. You see, over years of experience, this doctor had taught himself to recognise the small giveaway signs, the characteristic gait of someone in the early stages of this disease. Since then, it has always made me wonder how many vital clues doctors miss in their clinics when most of them now seem so absorbed with medical records on their computer screens.
It seems that my father’s consultant was a lifelong learner who paid attention.
In this complex, challenging world, we need to show up with more than the mere knowledge we have acquired, otherwise we are all in danger of merely becoming at best irrelevant, at worst clever devils.
My book is written for the knowledge worker, yes; but in the hope that we all will become so much more than a mere wielders of our learning.