How important is your personal knowledge? Have you ever dealt systematically and consciously with it? In this blog post I give you a few impulses, with which you steer in a few steps the development of your knowledge more consciously and successfully than perhaps so far.

What do we actually mean when we speak of knowledge? Do not we often just talk about information or even pure data?

Depending on our perception and our consciousness, our brain absorbs information that is nothing but bundled data and mixes it with our experiences, emotions, and our prior knowledge. All of this also happens depending on the particular situation in which we are. This results in the product “personal knowledge”.
Are you afraid of disadvantages when sharing your knowledge? There is good news! No matter how much you share your knowledge with others, at most you will pass on fragments of it. They merely pass on information that recipients can use to transform their personal knowledge, depending on their background and situation, according to the above principle. This means that your knowledge will always remain your knowledge.

“Knowledge and its development and” storage “is clearly and exclusively bound to an individual.”

– Reinhard Willfort, 2017

The personal knowledge management pursues the goal both in private and professional context to design our personal knowledge in such a way that we can use and develop it as efficiently as possible in order to strengthen our competences.

You may be wondering if it really is necessary to deal so extensively with such an individual area. After all, we are all grown-up, have learned at least one profession and are both with our legs in life. Well, the following examples (see Eppler, 2004) from everyday life of adult, working individuals show that personal knowledge management is relevant for everyone:

  • We are re-planning our career and rely on new expertise.
  • We are experts in at least one area and aspire to keep our knowledge qualitatively and quantitatively at a high level.
  • Many of us daily flood in with information aimlessly. In the process, we get lost and lose valuable time.
  • We consume all tangible information and in order to achieve this, we put ourselves under pressure. Incidentally, in this context we are talking about FOMO (= Fear of missing out), the new fear of our society to miss something important or not to be up to date.
  • Again and again we try to deal with certain topics and do it – week by week, month by month – but not.
  • For example, we would like to have a coherent picture of complex subject areas in our professional environment.

Richard Pircher (2014) discusses in detail how personal knowledge management can be implemented. In simple terms, I recommend five steps that allow you to develop your personal knowledge in specific subject areas and consequently your competences consciously and purposefully:

1. Defining areas of interest and topics
2. Defining existing knowledge and currently identifying relevant knowledge gaps
3. Defining the purpose and benefit of the new knowledge
4. Researching and obtaining relevant information
5. Dealing with knowledge

1. Defining areas of interest and topics
In this first step, you focus on topics for which you want to gain new knowledge. Especially for inquisitive people with a broad range of interests such a clarification is important in order not to lose himself in the search for new information.
Different methods help to get an overview and clarity about relevant topics. If you are faced with a wide range of topics, brainstorming is a good starting point to simplify subsequent categorization and classification . Among other things, the principle of the Eisenhower matrix is suitable in this contextin which you focus your prioritization on the aspects of importance and urgency.

2. Define existing knowledge and identify currently relevant knowledge gaps
First of all, it should be mentioned that the goal of this question is not the mapping of all your knowledge in detail, because this is simply not possible. Likewise, you will not be able to identify all the possible gaps in your knowledge, because the entire existing expertise of a topic is not quite tangible for human, individual perception. The aim here is to gain a rough overview of your focus topics and to determine the currently relevant knowledge gaps that you plan to work on in the foreseeable future.

Also to this end, there are numerous approaches and methods, which I recommend in this post only two, the mind mapping and concept mapping :
The generally very common method of mind mapping is when your subjects and areas of your knowledge of rough to detailed, hierarchical and keyword-like visual in a kind of tree structure. Here, a single term (= here thought unit, fact) forms the center of the representation, which is represented by a name. The disadvantage is that no cross connections are provided here and only one term is in the center.

If you would like to deal more intensively with your knowledge structure, concept mapping is ideal. With this method, you develop a visual network of several terms, with the relationship between the concepts at the center.

When you create a concept map , or more precisely when arranging and establishing relationships between the terms, you automatically identify existing knowledge gaps, which also speaks in favor of this method.

At this point, ideally, you will again look at the deficits that have been identified and define whether they are more in depth or in width. This knowledge significantly facilitates the subsequent search for information.

3. Defining the purpose and value of the new knowledge 
Your precise and up-to-date goal definition serves you several times as it creates awareness about it.

  • how and where you want to use your new personal knowledge and pass on information
  • what significance it has for you
  • which benefits (rational / emotional) you expect as a result.

Make a note of your detailed goal definition so that you can read it over and over again and check the progress you make. This reflectionand the associated consciousness helps you in everyday life to concentrate more and more systematically on your personal knowledge management.
Afterwards I recommend to rebalance the previously identified knowledge gaps and to set a new ranking in writing.

4. Research and obtain relevant information
You need relevant and up-to-date information. Before you jump on the Internet search engine you trust, ask yourself these questions and keep your answers in writing:

  • Which persons in your environment have relevant expert knowledge?
  • Which people could recommend to you experts or other sources of information?
  • Does your subject matter qualify for further education, a seminar or a lecture?
  • Which institution (eg educational institution, symposium, trade and professional association) offers the right offer?
  • Which specialist literature or journals are there for your topic?
  • Are there any other useful media types (eg videos, online help, manuals, guides, standards, guidelines)?

Only if you have answered these questions for yourself, I recommend you to start the research. Incidentally, in addition to search engines, you can often use social media for internet research:

  • Groups on LinkedIn or Facebook: Join them, network with the experts and, above all, post your specific question. In well-moderated and active groups, you will quickly get lots of constructive feedback with answers and recommendations that you can review and use for yourself.
  • Via hashtag # plus keyword you get interesting links to experts, companies, organizations resp. to articles, blog posts, etc. where they link. For this, the combination of the relevant keywords is particularly crucial.

5. Dealing with knowledge
This is where your real work begins. Gathering information is one thing, knowing to generate knowledge is another.
Please take the following advice.

Structure, document and maintain your knowledge continuously:

  • Integrate your new knowledge into the framework of your foreknowledge and establish connections and relationships with your prior knowledge. This will create a comprehensible, coherent knowledge structure.
  • Record new knowledge in the form of information, insights and experiences in writing: mind maps, concept maps, micro articles, knowledge diaries, knowledge maps, wikis, knowledge databases, etc. 
  • To do this, you can use digital capture to help you find information faster, better link individual information (Wikipedia principle), and enable better ordering.
  • Keep your documentation updated so that it does not lose its value.
  • Be generous when it comes to helping other people with your knowledge. Give useful information and experiences.
    You can also get involved in communities such as Büro Züri . This will also show your own expertise.

Consider this post as a recommendation or impulse for your everyday dealings with your interests and challenges, the necessary information and your precious personal knowledge.
In other blog posts, I will go into more detail on the question of useful tools for personal knowledge management, on individual methods as well as on research techniques and network strategies.

Please take the opportunity and leave a comment with your experiences, recommendations or questions under this post. I am happy to answer your questions in a personal conversation. Feel free to contact me .

Best regardsAzadeh Eshaghi

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