Zack's taxonomy of knowledge

Zack (1999) presents a hierarchical typology of knowledge in organization which are necessary for efficient functioning. Explicit knowledge is further classified into declarative, procedural, and causal knowledge.

Declarative Knowledge

Declarative knowledge, or 'knowledge about' or 'know what', refers to the labels, concepts, categories and things that are important to the organisation. It is the ability to recognize and classify concepts, things and states of the world, routine knowledge about which the expert is conscious. It is shallow knowledge that can be readily recalled since it consists of simple and uncomplicated information. This type of knowledge often resides in short/term memory.

Procedural Knowledge

Procedural knowledge, or 'knowledge how', represents the understanding of how to carry out a specific procedure. It includes organisational routines and rituals and refers to the ability to perform a particular set of actions.

Causal Knowledge

Causal knowledge, or 'knowledge why', refers to an understanding of why something occurs. It is  description of causal links among a set of factors; organisational stories, which provides a means for organisations to develop consensus about why particular actions should be taken or how best to achieve some goal.

Relational Knowledge

Relational knowledge refers to an understanding of the relationships among or between these types of knowledge. Learning and innovation is often the result of creating or modifying relationships among existing and seemingly disparate concepts and ideas.

Zack (1999) defines core knowledge as the minimum level of knowledge required just to ''play the game". As core knowledge is widely distributed among industry members, the firm's long-term competitive viability is not assured by possessing it (

Advanced knowledge allows a firm to differentiate itself from other firms, thereby avoiding a head-on competition. Advanced knowledge thus enables a firm to be competitively viable. The firm may have generally the same level, scope, or quality of knowledge as its competitors although the specific knowledge content will often vary among competitors, enabling knowledge differentiation (

Innovative knowledge is the knowledge that enables a firm to be ahead of its competitors and to significantly differentiate itself from them. In addition, innovative knowledge often enables a firm to change the rules of the game itself. Zack cautions that knowledge is not static and what is innovative knowledge today will become the core knowledge of tomorrow. He classifies firms into innovators, leaders, viable competitors, laggards, and at risk, depending on the type of knowledge possessed by the firm relative to its competitors (

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