Let’s make Sense of Seek

A guestblog written for Ennuonline on the occassion of the Masterclass with Harold Jarche heldin the Hague, 30 January 2014

Jarche’s Personal Knowledge Management model and approach are a fine example of a model developed by a professional and tested in practice by many.

I first came across his Seek-Sense-Share as an idea from a colleague and the time I did not think much of it. Along the thought lines of: ‘Yeah, what’s new…’. This string of concepts was sort of launched as the new norm of professional behaviour. I was not impressed. Some weeks later I came across the model drawing of the hourglass and this started a rethink. I followed this by participating in Jarche’s online PKM workshop, an interesting experience, as Jarche walks his talk, as a reflective practitioner.

Understanding the Seek-Sense-Share model is closely linked to Jarche’s Personal Knowledge Management framework.  The PKM skills can help to make sense of, and learn from, the on-going flow of information and data that is ‘out’ there, actually all around us and that we hook up to, dip into, at home, in organisations and every place you can be online. Following and proactively ‘using’ digital information flows is problematic, due to vast volume and confusing level of signals, that can lead to noise and clutter. Finding time, making space to make sense of the data is difficult as there is so much and making sensible decisions is.

The PKM framework suggests an approach that shows the need to identify your own smart approach to knowledge and information that you can tap into and to link this to the development of your own personal network. In dialogue with Jarche it becomes very clear that for him the size of the personal network does not matter, it is the quality of interaction within that network that will enable you to add value. An illustration of this is that Jarche chose to delete his Linkedin account and to rebuild it from scratch, using quality interaction as his design principle.  Jarche: PKM is a process of filtering, creating, and discerning, and it also helps manage individual professional development through continuous learning. The visualisation of Seek>Sense>Share is appealing as it suggests that there are three linked processes or activities that feed into each other.Let’s make Sense of Seek….As it is possible to get lost while seeking or to be distracted, even seduced by just following a click or pursuing a discussion thread or a picture or other visual… this suggests that it is worthwhile to explore the meaning of ‘Seek’. Seek is more an attitude and what principles shape this individual attitude? What makes seek or seeking relevant?

  1. Curiosity, the hunger of wanting to know (more), to understand, to explore;
  2. An appreciation for diversity of information, resources, forms of knowledge and learning;
  3. Having a network of contacts that is sufficiently diverse and can also be characterized by a measure of redundancy, as it from the rough edges that unexpected contributions can come;
  4. Love for interaction between yourself and others in the network;
  5. Appreciation of flow and emergence, the ‘new’ (processes, knowledge, insight) is more often the outcome of co-generation then of purposeful design.

Karl Weick the ‘father of sensemaking’ states that sensemaking consists of developing a plausible understanding of a shifting world, a sort of map or rough sketch. In knowledge and learning terms, this could be understood as the output of ‘seeking, and this needs to be followed by testing this map or rough sketch with others through further data collection, actions (application of the map or sketch), and conversation; and then refining, or abandoning, the map depending on how credible it is. This is comfortably close to Weick’s description of sensemaking. The Seek-Sense-Share model follows this with the activity of sharing. Jarche is an avid blogger, who manages to produce a very readable and richly linked blog on a weekly basis. Jarche admits that his blogging is driven by his personal interests and serves as his Seek>Sense>Share practice. This practice is a further indication of practicing what he preaches, in that sense following his blog shows the strength of the Seek>Sense>Share approach. Jarche’s PKM model is robust and practical, and in itself is a route or ‘map’ for making sense of the new digital world as suggested by Weick. Even more so as Jarche continues to question and provide further insights of its use in his own work. The fact that the model and approach readily draw you in to apply the model in looking at your own, organisational and inter-organisational knowledge processes and thus sharpen your thinking and understanding is another illustration of the intriguing quality of the PKM and seek>sense>share framework.Chatti has made some observations on the PKM model, suggesting that the model is a set of standard or fixed processes and  suggests that his Personal Knowledge Network model is a further improvement on the PKM model.

Having interacted with Jarche in his online PKM workshop it is obvious that the network dimension is a fundamental element in Jarche’s approach to on-going and online learning. An ecology of contacts, oscillating presence in networks is an essential behavioral dimension of applying the PKM model in your work and learning.A very different critique is the observation that there two dimensions missing if the Seek>Sense>Share and PKM framework are taken as they are. These are the dimensions of reflection and the importance of feedback. Sensemaking can hardly be undertaken without a degree of reflection. Choosing, selecting, identifying contacts and networks of clients, colleagues and peers for sharing inevitably involves a degree of reflection and also feedback. Without these dimensions Chatti’s comment that PKM is a set of standard processes does appear to hold.Reflection and feedback are interactive practices that make the model come alive and are behavioral dimensions that when added seem to make the model or framework even more useful.

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