Robust personalise knowledge management is no longer the domain of tech gurus with self-hosted wikis or diligent index card practitioners. The blossoming ‘tools for thought’ space has made the process accessible to everyone, and building your ‘second brain’ has never been easier.

However, collective knowledge management remains a complex challenge.

While these tools can be effectively adopted in collective domains (I have high hopes!), in this case, the tools are not the problem. The real problem is building intuitive workflows and strong protocols that encourage adoption and ensure repeatable outcomes.

I’m not referring to reference documents or FAQs that could be found on a company wiki. Instead, I’m referring to knowledge synthesis: activities that happen in complex environments, where knowledge is rapidly built upon ever-evolving information. Think of a high-paced laboratory, where teams are simultaneously working on different hypotheses, or a corporate environment requiring complex decision making.

In personal systems, you can go with the flow and see where the latest rabbit hole takes you. Collective systems require bureaucracy (the good kind): structure, accountabilities, and governance. They need significant upfront investment in building consensus and setting up team norms.

Invariably the first outings will always be rough. The solutions must be flexible, allowing for iteration built-off of continuous feedback loops. Change management is the order of the day.

But with patience, these systems will bear fruit. There is no greater feeling than a team with a shared understanding and vision working towards a common goal.