Harold Jarche starts with a warning that it will not be session about Personal knowledge mastery (PKM) with the 17 steps to…. Rather he will talk about why PKM is necessary and the introduce a model for PKM.  And what the heck does it have to do with learning and development?

In 2003 Harold found himself unemployed in remote part of Canada. Lives in Atlantic time. Environment similar to southern Scotland. Started blogging. At the time it wasn’t natural to do. Harold believed in it and thought that the www would make things different.

“If you give away all your knowledge on your blog, nobody will hire you”. Andrea Wilson (Harold’s wife :).

Through blogging started connecting online, some have become business relationships, some close friends. This is not what Harold had been taught in school. Cartoon my blog gave me everything. If you don’t give you don’t get. Freedanisblogginginyourunderwear.com. You learn as you go.

Average company lifespans decrease. Most of us are going to work for several companies. PKM is about how do I take control of my personal mastery. This is more important if you are going to work for different companies.


  1. Automation. 47% of US jobs at high risk of automation over the next decade. (Source nesta.org.uk)
  2. Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy. You can go through your networks to get your information. You can now have ridiculously easy group-forming.
  3. The growth is in non-routine cognitive work. Non-routine work is highly contextual and requires greater implicit knowledge. Implicit knowledge is shared through observation and conversation.

The model of Personal Knowledge Mastery

On the one hand you have work and projects (strong ties), on the other hand your social networks (weak ties). Often the innovation comes through the weak ties. The potential for new and serendipity is in the social networks. However, there is a gap between the two. The gap between collaboration and cooperation. There are huge online communities around knitting and ukelele playing. They share freely online. What is the gap? The gap is communities of practice. You need this trusted space as a professional to experiment and ask your questions.

“You know you are in a community of practice when it is changing your practice” 

Personal knowledge mastery is navigating these three spaces, breathing in and breathing out from your networks and communities to teams. Communities help filtering what you seek in your networks.

An example of the Bangor faculty of Psychology. If the students graduate they already have an online network. One student blogged and got an invitation for a post-graduate position through her blog. If you are not connected you are not going to have these kind of opportunities.

With the growth of creative jobs the importance increases from explicit knowledge to implicit, from formal to informal, from tangible to intangible. We are living in a dynamic, volatile world where companies can become value-less overnights.

A second model: the PKM activity quadrants

If you are on Twitter and you don’t engage, it is not likely that your network will give back to you when you ask questions.

Third model The PKM roles

If you want to see the models more clearly, check out Harold’s blog at Jarche.com. Without the sense-making all you do is making noise. So for instance when you retweet, cite a quote and add your insights.

An organizational perspective

Performance improvement is about reducing errors or increasing insights. See also the book by Gary Klein Seeing What others Don’t. (2013). Innovation can be driven by coincidence, connections or curiosity. How do we support this? Training and job aids are really good to reduce errors. but to increase insights you need informal and social learning. PKM helps you make connections, makes you see patterns and stimulates you to try something new. The P is for Personal, which means there is no prescription, it is personal what works for you. The connection path changes how we understand, feel, act.

From personal KM to group KM to organizational Knowledge Management

PKM gives individuals the tools, group enables teams to try new methods and share knowledge and org KM provides structure. The organizations who promote PKM suddenly have a learning organization.