Personal Knowledge Mastery (#PKM) and #Sensemaking

As I began evaluating my own knowledge management practice, I turned to Harold Jarche’s model, Seek>Sense>Share to understand where my gaps were and how I could improve upon my processes. The first part, Seek, I’m quite comfortable with: I have a wide range of topics that I follow and explore, and I spend at least a half hour a day, often more, digging up new material or following up on leads. I have been an avid user of Evernote since its open beta became available in 2008. Since then, I have collected thousands of notes meticulously arranged under a series of notebooks and tags. In the last few years, I have also been using Zotero to organize and tag academic bibliographic information and papers. I scan much, much more than I capture, and am usually carefully targeting what I am seeking.

I do realize, though, that I have not been as disciplined in sense-making, the second pillar of Jarche’s model. Sense-making enhances content by adding to its context, categorization, and narratives. Different ways of accomplishing this might be engaging experts or peers in dialogues (or blogalogues!); introducing new perspectives; creating metaphors to explain difficult concepts; evaluating assumptions, evidence, and results; and creating visualizations like mind-maps to help organize and make sense of concepts. Ultimately, the goal is to add value in the sense-making process.


Beth Kantor

Ideal Content Curation Practice from Beth Kantor

On this last point, mind-mapping, I’ve discovered an application that I think can help develop a more solid sense-making process. I’ve used mind-maps before to take apart and rebuild processes, but I have not used them to organize and make sense of content. The Brain application (at is an easy to use but very powerful mind mapping application that can collect documents, attachments, links, and other content, and facilitates organization and visualization of ideas. I grabbed the app and quickly visualized a few ideas related to enterprise social networks:



Image from the Brain application

I can now go back and add articles, my notes and comments, even PowerPoint decks that I have previously created to pull some of this content together. Once I have dropped in and arranged all of my content, I can use the map as is or export an outline for further analysis and comparison, both of which will help me in sense-making.

“Provocative Dialogues” and Team #Learning

I was really struck today by an HBR article by Todd Warner (Corporate Learning Programs Need to Consider Context, Not Just Skills) that talks about different approaches to driving organizational learning. One idea discussed was that of “provocative dialogues”, where leaders are encouraged to bring ideas to teams not through typical PowerPoint presentations, but through strategically designed dialogues. The intent of these sessions was to not to focus on content, but rather on giving leaders an opportunity to connect differently with their teams and share insights about what was actually going on. New content was available, but it wasn’t the driver of the discussion–the goal was to get teams to think differently about the way they worked, and what they could do differently. The leaders, in turn, received feedback about their impact on the system and what they needed to change in order to more effectively realize their strategy.


This year, I have led multiple Change Management training sessions the old fashioned way, with a PowerPoint deck and canned activities to illustrate the components of what I was presenting. I can’t help wondering how effective those sessions were–how much did people take away from my presentation? Did they really understand how to use what I was trying to show them? As I prepare to lead a new change initiative, I love this idea of “provocative dialogues”, and wonder how I could use that get people to talk about the learning content they have been exposed to. I would love to get team members talking about where they have applied their change management learnings so far, and how they think they could apply them in our upcoming change initiative. Not sure how this will work, but I’m going to give it a try!

Social Network Analysis and Change Management

In #msloc455 I’ve been engaged learning how social network analysis (#SNA) can be used not just to examine the flow of knowledge and information across a network, but actually leveraged to drive a change initiative.  Rob Cross and his colleagues have researched and outlined a specific application of social network analysis that is of great interest to me. Cross has studied how leaders can leverage the insights of social network analysis to identify opinion leaders who can help engage and drive others in a change effort. Cross identifies multiple roles (Connector, Expert, Broker, Energizer, and Resister) that provide insight into the different ways that leaders can leverage people in a change effort.  Connectors (those who support many team members in different ways), for example, can help create alignment through their informal leadership and trusted opinions. Brokers, with their ties that bridge organizational boundaries, can help address the need for adjustments that take place during a change initiative. Resisters, who can stall momentum and deenergize colleagues, can be brought on board and engaged to aid change initiatives. The problems that modern organizations face are complex and interconnected, and therefore not easily managed by a strictly top-down management approach. Leaders who can understand and leverage the insights that come from social network analysis can expand their organization’s capacity to manage change.

I am facing a substantial process and systems change within my function, and from my reading of Cross, I know that I can in theory use social network analysis to identify key players to assist in this upcoming change initiative. I have been asked to lead the change management efforts associated with this process implementation, and I have begun to assemble network data to help me understand who the key players are that will be able to facilitate the change. In a diagram I have started building, several key players can be identified as influencers, based on the number of people that turn to them for advice. The diagram illustrates the results of a very simple survey that asked associates to identify those to whom they most frequently turned when they wanted to learn something or had a problem they couldn’t solve. Some individuals, like the function managers, naturally appeared in positions of influence. The network diagram also identified individuals who were unexpectedly revealed to be influential. I’m looking forward to writing more about this over the next several weeks.


Cross, R., Ernst, C., & Pasmore, B. (2013). A bridge too far? How boundary spanning networks drive organizational change and effectiveness. Organizational Dynamics, 42(2), 81–91.

Appreciation of Treem & Leonardi (and Jeff Merrell!)

In my experience in teaching the course MSLOC 430 Creating and Sharing Knowledge, I have come to more deeply appreciate the first third of the course, where we explore different points of view about organizational knowledge, learning and technology. Here is the basic storyline of the course, in thirds: Let’s take a look at how […]

via How do we think about creating and sharing knowledge in organizations? — Jeff Merrell

Of the articles on #ESN that Jeff mentions in his post, the one by Treem and Leonardi (Social Media Use in Organizations Exploring the Affordances of Visibility, Editability, Persistence, and Association) is the one that stood out for me at the time, and has been boundlessly useful since I took the class. As my organization gradually  implements Yammer, I keep coming back to Treem and Leonardi to help people understand the value of enterprise social networks. I have based discussions, presentations, and internal blog posts on the foundation of those affordances analyzed in that article. People still struggle-“Tell me again why this is a good thing?”-but with a firm foundation I can answer those questions and help move people toward acceptance and utilization.

A long ways yet to go persuading colleagues, but it would be much, much longer without the solid foundation I received in my encounter with Treem and Leonardi in Jeff Merrell’s invigorating class.

Blog at

Up ↑