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Encyclopedia > Tacit knowledge

The concept of tacit knowing comes from scientist and philosopher Michael Polanyi. It is important to understand that he wrote about a process (hence tacit knowing) and not a form of knowledge. However, his phrase has been taken up to name a form of knowledge that is apparently wholly or partly inexplicable. Michael Polanyi (March 11, 1891 - February 22, 1976) was a Hungarian/ British polymath whose thought and work extended across physical chemistry, economics, and philosophy. ...

Contents

Definition

By definition, tacit knowledge is knowledge that people carry in their minds and is, therefore, difficult to access. Often, people are not aware of the knowledge they possess or how it can be valuable to others. Tacit knowledge is considered more valuable because it provides context for people, places, ideas, and experiences. Effective transfer of tacit knowledge generally requires extensive personal contact and trust. Consciousness is a quality of the mind generally regarded to comprise qualities such as subjectivity, self-awareness, sentience, sapience, and the ability to perceive the relationship between oneself and ones environment. ...


Tacit knowledge is not easily shared. One of Polanyi's famous aphorisms is: "We know more than we can tell." Tacit knowledge consists often of habits and culture that we do not recognize in ourselves. In the field of knowledge management the concept of tacit knowledge refers to a knowledge which is only known by an individual and that is difficult to communicate to the rest of an organization. Knowledge that is easy to communicate is called explicit knowledge. The process of transforming tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge is known as codification or articulation. This article does not cite any references or sources. ... Knowledge Management (KM) comprises a range of practices used by organisations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge for reuse, awareness and learning. ... Explicit knowledge is referred to the knowledge which has been articulated, codified and stored in certain mediums. ...


Properties of tacit knowledge

The tacit aspects of knowledge are those that cannot be codified, but can only be transmitted via training or gained through personal experience. Alternatively, tacit knowledge can be understood to be knowledge that is embedded in a culture (for instance a regional culture, organizational culture or social culture) and is difficult to share with people not embedded in that culture. Tacit knowledge has been described as "know-how" (as opposed to "know-what" [facts], "know-why" [science] and "know-who" [networking]) . It involves learning and skill but not in a way that can be written down. The knowledge of how to ride a bike is an example: one cannot learn to ride a bike by reading a textbook, it takes personal experimentation and practice to gain the necessary skills. This is a disambiguation page — a navigational aid which lists other pages that might otherwise share the same title. ...


Tacit knowledge has been found to be a crucial input to the innovation process. A society’s ability to innovate depends on its level of tacit knowledge of how to innovate. Polanyi suggested that scientific inquiry could not be reduced to facts, and that the search for new and novel research problems requires tacit knowledge about how to approach an unknown. Further writers have suggested that most laboratory practices, practices that are vital to the successful reproduction of a scientific experiment, are tacit (Collins, 2001). Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi's book The Knowledge Creating Company (1995) brought the concept of tacit knowledge into the realm of corporate innovation. In it, they suggest that Japanese companies are more innovative because they are able to successfully collectivize individual tacit knowledge to the firm. The two researchers give the example of the first Japanese bread maker, whose development was impossible until the engineers interned themselves to one of Japan's leading bakers. During their internship, they were able to learn the tacit movements required to knead dough, and then transfer this knowledge back to the company. Hirotaka Takeuchi is dean of the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy at Hitotsubashi University in Tokyo and was a visiting professor at Harvard Business School in 1989 and 1990. ... A breadmaker is a home appliance for baking bread, it handles the process from ingredients to a finished loaf automatically. ...


An example of the problems of tacit knowledge is the Bessemer process – Bessemer sold a patent to his advanced steel making process and was sued by the purchasers who couldn't get it to work – in the end Bessemer set up his own steel company which became one of the largest in the world and changed the face of steel making. Bessemer converter, schematic diagram The Bessemer process was the first inexpensive industrial process for the mass-production of steel from molten pig iron. ...


Tacit knowledge may seem a simple idea but its implications are large and far reaching. If important knowledge is tacit, then it cannot be effectively spread through an organization. This means that useful knowledge will not be able to reach those who need it without direct, face-to-face contact. It also means that training newcomers in an organization becomes more time consuming, because they must be given time to learn on their own while doing, which reduces overall efficiency. In order to collectivize and spread tacit knowledge, organizations must invest greatly in the human capital of its members. Human capital is a way of defining and categorizing the skills and abilities as used in employment and as they otherwise contribute to the economy. ...


Failures due to lack of tacit knowledge - the so called "Law of Unintended Consequences"

Main article: Law of unintended consequences

A technical specialist acquires a defined body of formal knowledge during his education, but to be effective he must acquire tacit knowledge and this is done through a sort of apprenticeship. So a civil engineer has to first have a degree, and then several years of experience before he can become chartered. He is then deemed to be an effective practitioner. Unintended consequences can be either positive, in which case we get serendipity or windfalls source of problems, according to the Murphys law definitively negative: perverse effect, which is the opposite result to the one intended The Law of unintended consequences holds that almost all human actions have at least...


By and large this works well, but in a significant number of cases it does not. As an example, irrigation-scheme-induced Bilharzia and Schistosomiasis, a nasty waterborne parasite, can be put down to civil engineers not being aware of the need to build in cheap anti-bilharzia measures - due to a failure of tacit knowledge and the Relevance Paradox. Schistosomiasis or bilharzia is a disease affecting many people in developing countries. ... The Relevance Paradox occurs where individual, professionals or groups of professionals are unaware of certain essential information which would guide them to better decisions, and help avoid inevitable, unintended and undesirable consequences, but lacking the information, they dont see its relevance so dont seek it. ...


The civil engineers were victims of the relevance paradox in that they thought they only needed to know about concrete, water flows etc., not how to restrict velocities, preventing the snail species which carried the disease from multiplying.


Charnock, Anne (1980). Taking Bilharzia's out of the irrigation equation. New Civil Engineer, 7 August. Bilharzia caused by poor civil engineering design due to ignorance of cause and prevention.


Knowledge management

There are many implications for organizational learning and knowledge management, including: Organizational learning is an area of knowledge within organizational theory that studies models and theories about the way an organization learns and adapts. ... Knowledge Management (KM) comprises a range of practices used by organisations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge for reuse, awareness and learning. ...

  • The difficulty inherent in tacit knowledge transfer is that subject matter experts and key knowledge holders may not be aware---hence, unable---to articulate, communicate and describe what they know. Thus, tacit knowledge can be a sustainable competitive advantage.
  • Tacit knowledge is embedded in group and organizational relationships, core values, assumptions and beliefs. It is hard to identify, locate, quantify, map or value.
  • Tacit knowledge is impossible to transmit through Central media but it can be transmitted by lateral media.
  • Tacit knowledge is embedded in human capital. This makes it valuable as a strategic advantage over competitors in terms of innovations, trade secrets, ideas and new technologies.

Knowledge transfer in the fields of Organizational development and organizational learning, is the practical problem of getting a packet of knowledge from one part of the organization to another (or all other) parts of the organization. ... Companies that compete by selling similar products (or even substitutes) to the same group of customers constitute an industry. ... Lateral media can be seen as any specific technology to promote lateral communication. ... Human capital is a way of defining and categorizing the skills and abilities as used in employment and as they otherwise contribute to the economy. ...

References

Polanyi, Michael. "The Tacit Dimension". First published Doubleday & Co, 1966. Reprinted Peter Smith, Gloucester, Mass, 1983. Chapter 1: "Tacit Knowing".


Collins, H.M. "Tacit Knowledge, Trust and the Q of Sapphire" Social Studies of Science' p. 71-85 31(1) 2001


Nonaka, I and Takeuchi, H. The Knowledge Creating Company Oxford University Press, 1995


See also

This article needs additional references or sources for verification. ... Knowledge Management (KM) comprises a range of practices used by organisations to identify, create, represent, and distribute knowledge for reuse, awareness and learning. ... Procedural knowledge or know-how is the knowledge of how to perform some task. ... Explicit knowledge is referred to the knowledge which has been articulated, codified and stored in certain mediums. ... Descriptive knowledge, also declarative knowledge or propositional knowledge, is the species of knowledge that is, by its very nature, expressed in declarative sentences or indicative propositions. ... In economics, dispersed knowledge is information that is dispersed throughout the marketplace, and is not in the hands of any single agent. ... The Relevance Paradox occurs where individual, professionals or groups of professionals are unaware of certain essential information which would guide them to better decisions, and help avoid inevitable, unintended and undesirable consequences, but lacking the information, they dont see its relevance so dont seek it. ... An Information Routing Group (or IRG) is one of a semi-infinite set of similar interlocking and overlapping groups each IRG containing a group of ( maybe 3 to 200) individuals (IRGists) and each IRG loosely sharing a particular common interest; IRGists exchange information, as a group, a sub group, or... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Lateral media can be seen as any specific technology to promote lateral communication. ... Look up Intuition in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The concept hidden curriculum expresses the idea that schools do more than simply transmit knowledge, as laid down in the official curricula. ... Constructivist approaches to human learning have led to the development of a theory of cognitive apprenticeship (Collins, Brown, & Newman, 1987; Brown, Collins, & Duguid, 1989). ... It has been suggested that this article or section be merged into Social constructionism. ... The concept of a community of practice (often abbreviated as CoP) refers to the process of social learning that occurs when people who have a common interest in some subject or problem collaborate over an extended period to share ideas, find solutions, and build innovations. ... Concept mapping is a technique for visualizing the relationships between different concepts. ... Decision making is the cognitive process of selecting a course of action from among multiple alternatives. ... Activity theory (AT) is a Soviet psychological meta-theory, paradigm, or framework, with its roots in behaviourism. ... This article needs additional references or sources for verification. ...

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KNOWLEDGE MANAGEMENT - Collecting, Leveraging, and Distributing both Explicit and Tacit Knowledge Throughout Your ... (1405 words)
Tacit knowledge is a subtle conception rooted in cognitive schemata referred to as “mental models” and is rather difficult to articulate.
Knowledge conversion initiates at the individual level as a “justified true belief” and is expanded through social interactions to include a diversity of perspectives that ultimately represent shared knowledge at the organizational level.
Tacit knowledge, or implicit knowledge, as opposed to explicit knowledge, is far less tangible and is deeply embedded into an organization's operating practices.
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