Tacit and Explicit Knowledge

However, two major types of knowledge are central to KM

  • Tacit knowledge
  • Explicit knowledge

The distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge is perhaps the most fundamental concept of knowledge management. Such a distinction was first made by Michael Polyani in the 1960s, but it forms one of the central planks of Nonaka and Takeuchi's book The Knowledge-Creating Company (1995) [http://www.skyrme.com/kmbasics/ktacit.htm]

Tacit knowledge (knowing-how): knowledge embedded in the human mind through experience and jobs. Know-how and learning embedded within the minds of people. Personal wisdom and experience, context-specific, more difficult to extract and codify. Tacit knowledge Includes insights, intuitions.

Explicit knowledge (knowing-that): knowledge codified and digitized in books, documents, reports, memos, etc. Documented information that can facilitate action. Knowledge what is easily identified, articulated, shared and employed.

Thus, explicit (already codified) and tacit (embedded in the mind).

Explicit knowledge Tacit (implicit) knowledge
 Objective, rational, technical Subjective, cognitive, experiential learning  
 Structured Personal
 Fixed content Context sensitive/specific
 Context independent Dynamically created
 Externalized Internalized
 Easily documented Difficult to capture and codify
 Easy to codify Difficult to share
 Easy to share Has high value
 Easily transferred/ taught/learned Hard to document
 Exists in high volumes Hard to transfer/teach/learn
  Involves a lot of human interpretation

However, Dalkir (2005, p.8) notes that tacit knowledge is quite a relative concept: - what is easily articulated by one person may be very difficult to externalize by another. Thus, the same content may be explicit for one person and tacit for another.

The terms ‘tacit knowledge’ and ‘implicit knowledge’ are sometimes used as synonyms. “Implicit” means that which is implied in a statement, but is not explicitly said. The term could refer to things that are contextual to a statement - that is, further statements that are connected with it in socially understandable manners.

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