posted 25 Sep 2002 in Volume 6 Issue 2
Book review: Know your value?
Sam Marshall reviews Know Your Value? by Mick Cope, a book he believes still stands out as one of the few knowledge management titles on the shelves that explore what KM means to the individual
Title: Know Your Value?
Author: Mick Cope
Publisher: Financial Times Prentice Hall (2000)
Although first published in 2000, Know Your Value? still stands out as one of the few books to address what KM might mean for the individual – also known as ‘personal knowledge management’ (PKM). “Ultimately, learning and knowledge will be discovered and delivered by individuals, not faceless corporate bodies,” writes Cope in his opening chapter. The author coaxes the reader into taking control of how they manage their individual knowledge, not for the good of the corporate body, but to get the best from their ‘personal capital’. Personal capital is the measure of our value, coupled with the (perhaps uncomfortable notion) that we should take responsibility for what we are worth, and not just leave it to our employer to tell us.
In order to understand these challenges, the bulk of Know Your Value? introduces a framework called the ‘K-profile’. The K-profile combines three dimensions:
- Knowledge stock – how knowledge is stored (tacit or explicit);
- Knowledge currency – how our knowledge interconnects with the world (split into ‘head/thoughts’, ‘hand/actions’ and ‘heart/feelings and relationships’);
- Knowledge flow – how your knowledge passes from discovery to delivery (of value) through intermediate operations of delay/store, dispose/unlearn, and diffuse/add value by sharing with others.
The last quarter of the book examines typical K-profiles, explained as archetypes (filters), and explores other possible applications of the framework, for instance for teams or mergers and acquisitions.
I have never been a big fan of self-development books, particularly those written in the gushing style so popular in the US. Although Know Your Value? is clearly related to the ‘personal brand’ concept (cf. Tom Peters), Cope’s style is more conservative. A mark of its success is that, despite my reservations, it prompted me to change something: to try and let go of knowledge that I should have disposed of long ago. Rather than attempting to read the entire book, I recommend that you apply the K-profile test to yourself and then use the text as a reference to explore the implications. A supporting website (www.wizoz.co.uk) lets you do the questionnaire online.
For the KM practitioner, Know Your Value? successfully manages to re-apply KM thinking to individuals. Where other authors have considered knowledge flow in organisations, they rarely go beyond communication issues to consider how people’s personal strategies have an impact. You may be good at generating ideas, for example (discover), but are you able to add value to them by inviting others to build on the idea (diffuse) and get them enthused (the ‘heart’ part of knowledge currency)?
For change management, some barriers also start to look surmountable. Instead of just saying, “You need the right culture”, Cope takes you a little bit closer towards knowing what to do about it, though he never claims to offer a total answer.
Some things about Know Your Value? will inevitably frustrate. This is a book about reflection rather than specific solutions, so there’s nothing on, say, IT tools that could help (even though some exist – like Enfish). Some parts of the K-profile are hard to comprehend and lack compelling examples, for instance the ‘explicit hand’. I also struggled to digest the latter parts of the book, in which Cope explores typical KM profiles and introduces filters and their archetypes. Their purpose is to help the reader to identify whether they ever act like an archetype, but for me the filters were one layer of definition too many.
Know Your Value? has a difficult job. It’s partly a self-help book, but many will find it too theoretical and would get more from the author’s later books (for example Float You: How to Capitalize on Your Talent, in which the K-profile is revisited for people considering self-employment). As a text for KM practitioners, it’s thought provoking, but deliberately doesn’t attempt to speak to them directly.
Know Your Value? would also be relevant to leaders in small businesses. The issues relating to getting value from knowledge are much easier to scale up from PKM than to scale down from corporate KM.
Know Your Value? is a challenging read. The first few chapters are conceptually interesting and introduce a language for KM that deserves to be more widely used. However, the detailed enumeration of all the K-profile combinations means it’s not something you would read cover to cover. The main part prompts you to ask difficult questions about yourself, and would also be valuable for those looking for a coaching-oriented way to introduce KM change. Overall, though, there is a great deal of potential in this book for those willing to put the effort in.
Sam Marshall is a Knowledge Management Specialist for Unilever R&D. He can be contacted at: email@example.com