Personal Knowledge Management (PKM): Exploring Methods, Tools, and Practice

“One cannot manage change. One can only be ahead of it.” (Peter Drucker)

Change leaders in philanthropy expect great progress from big data, networked learning, and collective impact. Meanwhile, the lines between many job roles and organizations are already becoming blurred. We hear that we can be most effective by aligning grants management with organizational strategy. But who has time to think beyond this week’s to-do list?

Top-down training models have not kept pace with our evolving work and work places. So how do we help our organizations lead these changes while advancing our own skills? And where do we find the missing pieces of the puzzle?

Steven Johnson gave sound advice in Where Good Ideas Come From when he wrote, “chance favors the connected mind.”

Making connections through the seas of information, people, and resources can be overwhelming. Online conversations have proposed Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) as a method for knowledge workers to become more effective learners in complex environments. First coined by Peter Druker in 1959, knowledge workers use their own knowledge to convert data into new information. PKM is not just a techno centric solution for absorbing more and more content. It’s a new way of working that puts technology in service of our natural desires to connect, learn, and create. It combines thinking and social skills with technical tools to inform our perspective and help us better process the world around us. And traditionalists will be happy to know that pen and paper are still a useful PKM technology.

A popular framework for PKM is the “Seek, Sense, Share” model, developed by Harold Jarche. Here is a 5-minute video walkthrough of Jarche’s take on PKM, which he now calls Personal Knowledge “Mastery”.  Social media expert Beth Kanter helped bring this model into nonprofit circles thru her trainings, a 2011 blog post, and a 2014 GMN conference session.

Jarche’s Seek, Sense, Share model is a personalized process where “learning is the work” rather than an occasional luxury.

  • To Seek is to engage in extended personal learning networks in order to discover and filter information and new perspectives that can inform your learning goals.
  • To Sense is to internalize and add value to this information by developing new insights through discussion and experimentation.
  • To Share is to communicate your new thoughts, resources, results, or lingering questions back to your peers and networks.

The process may seem obvious, but it is easy to skip the less comfortable steps due to fear, lack of practice, or lack of trust.

Future GMN blog posts will dig deeper into PKM and its related cognitive, social, and technical aspects. How does PKM fit in the grants management context? As grants managers, we understand how a good and flexible process can promote effectiveness; but this takes trial and error, patience, and a lot of feedback. With regular practice, a PKM process can advance your skills in critical thinking, communication, collaboration, adaptability, and info-tech literacy. Wouldn’t such skills support higher levels of organizational effectiveness and learning?

Anyone interested in this process should jump in to share their questions and ideas. What parts of a PKM process have you tried? How has this helped productivity? What tools are most useful? What challenges are in the way? Comment here or email with your ideas for collaborative experimentation. All it takes to get started with PKM is some passion, disciplined practice, and a willingness to share.



  • Drucker, Peter. Management Challenges for the 21st Century. HarperBusiness. 2001
  • Jarche, Harold. (@hjarche)
  • Johnson, Steven. Where Good Ideas Come From. Riverhead Books. 2010. (@stevenbjohnson)
  • Kanter, Beth. (@kanter)
Chad Gorski

Chad Gorski is grants and finance coordinator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Maryland. Follow him on Twitter @chadgorski.

4 Responses

  1. […] that we’ve introduced the idea of personal knowledge management (PKM) and shown how it starts with self-awareness, some may think it is time to dig into the […]

  2. Valdis Krebs says:

    Looks like you copied and pasted from Harold Jarche’s PKM webinar…

  3. netjmc says:

    I agree with Valdis. Why reproduce on your site?

  4. Chad Gorski says:

    Thank you for reading the post. I shine a spotlight on Jarche’s Seek, Sense, Share framework as a way to introduce PKM to peers. I then go on to share my own experience with PKM tools and related concepts in later posts. After I participated in Jarche’s PKM in 40 days workshop last spring, he kindly reviewed and approved another of my posts in this series. I’m glad you are also interested in his work.

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