After working for two decades as a consultant in the areas of technology, information management, collaboration, and productivity, I realized that while these were all good things to do, the next opportunity was in the area of how we manage what we know and what we do with what we know. That realization led me to pursue the field of knowledge management and the management of intellectual capital. Unlike many people in the 1990's and early 2000's, I decided not to focus on the organizational level but rather to direct my attention to the individual or personal aspect of knowledge management. My work as an eProductivity specialist taught me that it's much easier to bring about a lasting impact working with individuals - from the bottom-up - than to try and create a system to be imposed on the organization top-down. Thus, my interest in knowledge management, and specifically my interest in what is frequently referred to as personal knowledge management, began.
Knowledge management (KM) is a young profession and there are only a handful of graduate programs in this subject around the world. I selected the Master of Information and Knowledge Management degree program offered by Tseng College at California State University Northridge after carefully studying the course descriptions and faculty bios. Due to a schedule conflict with my previous degree, I missed out on the traditional (live classroom) cohort, so I signed up for the on-line program. This offered several advantages in terms of flexibility and the ability to learn from faculty/practitioners around the country. In addition, it allowed me to interact with other working professionals with similar interests.
My graduate studies included course work in each of the following areas:
- Information and Knowledge Management
- Policy, Law and Economics of Knowledge Management
- Information Organization in the Knowledge Management Environment
- Information Needs and Learning for Knowledge Managers
- Management of Information and Knowledge Services
- The Knowledge Management Business
- Communication in the Knowledge Environment
- Information Access and On-line Searching
- Knowledge Management
- Competitive Intelligence
- Technology for KM Professionals
While I learned a lot in each area of study, four courses stood out to me as exceptional. The course on information needs and learning for knowledge workers, taught by Tracey Wik, began with Peter Senge's work on the learning organization and showed us how to put this in practice. I looked at these both from an organizational as well as an individual knowledge worker perspective. Allan Crawford, in addition to serving as academic lead for the second year, taught the course on management of information and knowledge services. This was an extraordinary course - it was basically a mini-MBA delivered in the context of managing intellectual capital. I could easily take this class again. The course on Knowledge Management, taught by Kiho Sohn, stretched our thinking in the areas of developing KM programs, tacit knowledge transfer and systems thinking.
Kent Greenes, whose name is already known to anyone familiar with KM, taught the final course on the knowledge management business. Kent's vast experience as a knowledge management pioneer and as a KM practitioner in his own KM consulting firm, brought rich understanding and case studies to the program. Like Allan's course, I could easily find value in taking this course again.
For my capstone, I chose to research and write about the practices that lead to high-performance knowledge work. This research and paper will become the basis for an upcoming seminar and book. This course was a self-study program with a lead academic advisor. I was fortunate to have Allan as my academic advisor and still have the input of the other two advisors, Tracey Wik, and Jon Powell of Ernst & Young. These five professors brought hands-on experience to our KM activities. It was a treat to have in this MKM program a balance of academics as well as practicing KM experts in their fields. I learned a great deal from each.
[If you are considering a graduate degree in Knowledge Management, there's still time to sign up for Cohort 3, which starts in early 2010. You can learn more about this program here. The program also hosts a blog. I would also be happy to answer any questions which you may have about the program or my experience along the way.]
I supplemented my graduate studies with learning from other people and resources, including KMWORLD, the Southern California Knowledge Management Forum at CSUN and JPL, and the National KM Conference at Pepperdine University. If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know my passion for teaching and public speaking. Looking back, I do not know how I managed it, but I presented a workshop on Knowledge Worker Productivity: Strategies & Techniques with Steve Barth at KMWORLD 2007 and on Mobile Productivity at the Office 2.0 Conference. I presented a second workshop on Personal Knowledge Management & Productivity with Paul Heisig at KMWORLD 2008.
Between the two, I collaborated with my close friend and colleague, Michael Sampson, to write and deliver the keynote and 30 sessions at the Beyond Planning Conference in Manila, Philippines. Oh, and I taught my first two undergraduate courses on Technology for Business Decision-making. Wow! It overwhelms me to read that in one paragraph. I’m so glad that I had GTD, eProductivity and a phenomenal family and support team to keep me going during all of this.
Words of appreciation
While I'm proud of my accomplishment, I could not have done this alone. To my family and friends, who helped me complete this degree - thank you! You stood beside me financially, in prayer, and with words of encouragement as I dealt with the challenges of balancing family, study, and work. I could not have done this without you.
To David Allen and Wayne Dell, thank you for your encouragement, mentoring, and letters of recommendation - this kicked off the adventure! To Michael, and to my colleagues in cohort 1: thanks for always being willing to take my call to discuss an idea or listen to me rant about some aspect of KM or my experience. To Steve: thank you for your mentoring in the area of Personal KM and many introductions to the people and research on the topic. To Dr. Allan Crawford, who convinced me and several others to stick with it when we hit the inevitable bumps in the program and who continuously challenged us to think deeper about the value that knowledge management can bring to individuals and organizations. Allan's leadership in the second half of the MKM program kept us focused on this and I know that he's already looking at ways to apply the lessons learned from our experience to the next cohort.
To my eProductivity team – Ian and Ryan - I cannot express enough thanks to the two of you. You kept the show running when I needed to step away – especially during the final couple of weeks while I worked on my capstone project. Thank you for the peace of mind. I knew all was in good hands. Michael, Tanny, John and Kirk, you have been a tremendous source of encouragement. Thank you, gentlemen for your support, council, friendship, and prayers. And to my Grace Group Bible Study - thanks for your friendship, encouragement and most of all your prayers. Lelia, thank you.
I would also like to thank my ICA consulting clients, who, by allowing me to serve them, provided the opportunity for me to apply what I was working on and to learn from their results.
Most important, I want to recognize and thank my lovely wife, Kathleen, and my daughters, Wendy, Amy, Emily, and Kelly, who provided encouragement and support and who sacrificed family events and activities so that daddy could study. Without these five lovely ladies, I would not have had the ambition or support to complete this journey. I am truly blessed. Words of gratitude would be incomplete without recognizing The Lord who provided throughout. It is my desire to honor Him through my service to others.
I look forward to spending more time with my wife and children. They sacrificed a lot while I studied and kept ICA going. Now, I hope to have a little more balance so I can enjoy time with them. eProductivity, our software company, continues to grow. I look forward to working with the team as we focus on taking this excellent product to the next level of user adoption. On the KM front, I have two events scheduled for the 2009 KMWORLD conference in San Jose. First, I'll be presenting a 3-hour workshop: Personal Knowledge Management (PKM), Social Networking & Productivity with Allan Crawford. We are excited to have this opportunity to present some of my research in high performance knowledge work. Allan and I will also be moderating an amazing panel of PKM experts in a session: Changing/Resetting the Enterprise With PKM & Social Software Tools. I'm honored that the following people have agreed to be on the panel: Steve Barth, Stan Garfield, Jim McGee, and Dave Pollard. (Unfortunately, David Gurteen is unable to join us.)
I also plan to continue my research and consulting in the area of high-performance knowledge work, eventually leading to a seminar and book on the topic. I'm looking forward to pursuing this at my own pace, however, I do look forward to making what I hope will be an important contribution to the professional and academic KM communities.
If I return to school, it will be to study two subjects that I had hoped would have been covered in more detail in the MKM program. These are the legal and technological aspects of knowledge management. Meanwhile, I'm currently exploring alternatives to increase my own knowledge in these areas. (Suggestions welcome).
As an adjunct professor of the Center for Professional Studies at The Master’s College, I will once again be teaching in the Organizational Management program. I'll be teaching MGT430 – Technology for Business Decision-making. It’s a fun course and I hope to rewrite the last section to introduce a KM approach to the course, as well. This way, my students will learn about the people, process, and technology side of knowledge work. I enjoy teaching and while I get to do it professionally, I think I would like to return to academia someday to teach a course on Personal Knowledge Management and High Performance Knowledge work at the undergraduate and graduate levels. This would be an exciting way to equip the next generation of knowledge workers.
As things settle down closer to Christmas, I hope to dust off a number of hobbies I put on hold 8 years ago when I began this academic journey - including vintage computer restoration, personal robotics, CNC, and mechanical music.
A final thank you
Once again, I would like to thank everyone that has been an encouragement or help as I worked on these goals. I am grateful for your support and friendship.