ILTA10 Session on PKM, Why I’m Starting With Email

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ll be one of the presenters in the ILTAU session about Personal Knowledge Management, on Weds. Aug 25 at 9:00AM. In preparation for that, I wanted to throw an idea against the wall here, and see what folks thought.

I actually decided to start our session (actually it’s two sessions, a two-parter if you will) with a hands-on demonstration with Outlook. The reason I’m starting there, is that I believe that people who struggle with managing their email, and don’t understand how to use things like rules to filter out the low-priority items, are going to struggle the same exact way when it comes to using other KM tools. If you don’t understand the how’s and why’s of filtering when it comes to your email, how can we ask you to suddenly grasp those same ideas when you move to things like RSS readers, Twitter, Social Bookmarking, etc?

I find that the biggest reason people give me for either not using those tools, or having given them up once they’ve tried them, is the inability to locate good sources, and then filter them appropriately. RSS feeds, or anything other source, just becomes another pile of information that they don’t have time to look at. There’s no sense of how to filter and prioritize what they are getting.

Typically, I find that these same people have had the same exact struggle with email for years, with no end in sight. Thus, my thought is “Let’s start there.” Let’s dig into where most people in law firms live, in Outlook, and try to help them get an understanding that there is a better way than simply slogging through 100’s of messages in the order they came in. Let’s get them to look at it in other ways, and help get them out from the email pile. Then we can talk about all the other great tools that are out there.

So long as people are looking at the incoming email stream as a one or two-dimensional flow, to be passively consumed and dealt with as it comes in, they will be forever limited when it comes to truly being able to filter, sort, and make sense of the information they are getting. If we can change their view of the one tool that they all use every single day, then we can begin to open up the greater world of social learning and knowledge management to them. We can take that stream of “receive, read, act and reply”, and turn it into a three-dimensional strategy to help prioritize, make sense of, and apply what we are seeing to our own lives.

If we can accomplish that, we will have done something! We’ll see how it goes!

If you’re going to be at ILTA, be sure to look me up and say hello!

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One Comment

  1. I think starting with e-mail makes a lot of sense.

    Information overload is equal to e-mail overload for a lot of people, and learning to use their tools to help them filter and manage the e-mail overload is crucial !

    Once they start mastering e-mail they may appreciate the value in proper tools (with proper use) that help them manage their personal knowledge.

    My 2 cents on information overload, filtering and personal knowledge management:

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