Tacit Knowledge

Knowledge Center


Description of Tacit Knowledge in Organizations. Explanation.




Definition Tacit Knowledge. Description.

Tacit Knowledge is one of two categories of knowledge. The other is: Explicit Knowledge. While explicit knowledge is relatively easy to capture and code in organizations, this is much more difficult with tacit knowledge. As a result, most organizations have concentrated their knowledge management efforts on developing explicit knowledge.

However, tacit knowledge is generally the more important category, because it is often a source of the Core Competence and the Competitive Advantage of any corporation. As a competitive advantage, it is sustainable, because it is so hard to copy or imitate. Furthermore it is crucial for making the right business decisions and also for innovation. From a financial perspective it is an important part of the Intangible Assets of any firm.

The term "tacit knowing" was coined by scientist and philosopher Michael Polanyi. It is important to note that he actually described a process (hence: tacit knowing), and not a form of knowledge.

One way of viewing tacit knowledge is to see it as the glue that is binding the explicit knowledge together. Another way to describe it, is as “know-how”, as opposed to: “know-what” (facts), or “know-why” (science). Another way is to make distinction between embodied knowledge and theoretical knowledge. On this account, knowing-how or embodied knowledge is characteristic of the expert, who acts, makes judgments, and so forth without explicitly reflecting on the principles or rules involved. The expert works without having a theory of his or her work; he or she just performs skillfully without deliberation or focused attention. Knowing-what and knowing-why, by contrast, involve consciously accessible knowledge that can be articulated and is characteristic of the person learning a skill through explicit instruction, recitation of rules, attention to his or her movements, etc. While such declarative knowledge may be needed for the acquisition of skills, the argument goes, it no longer becomes necessary for the practice of those skills once the novice becomes an expert in exercising them, and indeed it does seem to be the case that, as Polanyi argued, when we acquire a skill, we acquire a corresponding understanding that defies articulation.

Tacit Knowledge is difficult to codify, document, communicate, describe, replicate or imitate, because it is the result of human experience and human senses. The skills of a master or of a top manager cannot be learned from a textbook or even in a class, but only through years of experience and apprenticeship.

Nonaka and Takeuchi describe tacit knowledge as a non-linguistic, non-numerical form of knowledge that is highly personal and context specific and deeply rooted in individual experiences, ideas, values and emotions. Furthermore, they distinguish between technical tacit knowledge, meaning skills or concrete "know-how", and cognitive tacit knowledge, which refers to ingrained schema, beliefs, and mental models that are taken for granted.

P. Baumard (Tacit Knowledge in Organizations, 1999) has argued that knowledge in general, and tacit knowledge in particular, can be both an attribute of individuals and of groups, collectives or organizations. Although organizational tacit knowledge may be somewhat different from individual tacit knowledge. See also: Bridging Epistemologies

Hildreth and Kimble (The duality of knowledge, 2002) argue that the common approach to try to convert tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge, and then handle it using the 'traditional' approach is flawed. Some knowledge simply cannot be captured. A method is needed which recognizes that knowledge resides in people: not in machines or documents. They argue that knowledge management is essentially about people and the earlier technology driven approaches, which failed to consider this, were bound to be limited in their success. They suggest as practical way forward to use Communities of Practice, which provide an environment for people to develop knowledge through interaction with others in an environment where knowledge is created nurtured and sustained. Other systems via which organizations try to develop or capture tacit knowledge include special portals, search engines, resident experts, and documentation systems for experts.

Tacit Knowledge Forum
  How to Transfer Tacit Experience Globally
Along with Chinese companies going global comes th...
  Performance Contracting for Tertiary Institutions in Kenya - The Death Bed of Innovation
While performance contracting has its place in qua...
  How to Identify and Measure Tacit Knowledge?
I want to evaluate the faculty tacit knowledge<...
  Know How, Know What and Know When
Tacit knowledge is an essential part of the "pr...
  Recording Tacit Knowledge
A skill matrix is useful for recording employee...
  Using Tacit Knowledge for Organogram
If we can measure the knowledge of an employee<...
  Has Polanyi Been Misunderstood? Tacit vs. Explicit Knowledge
“The ideal of a strictly explicit knowledge is ind...
  Tacit Knowledge in Business Management
Indeed tacit knowledge has not been given its due ...
  Tacit Knowledge -- Grapevine
In an organisation, another useful source of knowl...
  Reliance on Tacit Knowledge
Westerners seem to denigrate the role of tacit kno...
  Communities of Practice
I noticed an interesting article in the Harvard BR...
  Indiginious Knowledge
This tacit knowledge is lke to indiginious knowled...

Tacit Knowledge Special Interest Group

Special Interest Group


Best Practices - Tacit Knowledge Premium

Expert Tips - Tacit Knowledge Premium

How to Identify and Map KnowledgeSign up

In his article “Knowledge Mapping: The Essentials ...
Usage (application): Knowledge Identification, Knowledge Capturing, Knowledge Storage

Positive Effects of Age Diversity on Company Productivity and (Tacit) Knowledge SharingSign up

Backes-Gellner and Veen (2013) outlined the main a...
Usage (application): Tacit Knowledge Transfer, Workforce Productivity, Incentive Management

Capturing Learned LessonsSign up

Knowledge from bad and good experiences will lead ...
Usage (application): How to Capture Organizational Learning? Best Practices

Barriers that Hinder Effective Knowledge SharingSign up

According to  

The N-Form Organization (Hedlund)Sign up

Gunnar Hedlund of the Stockholm School of E...
Usage (application): Alternate KM Framework

Knowledge Management ScopeSign up

Research by Deishin Lee (HBS) and Eric Van den Ste...
Usage (application): Knowledge Management, Level of Know-how

Knowledge Management Focal PointSign up

Research by Deishin Lee (HBS) and Eric Van den Ste...
Usage (application): Knowledge Management Focus

Resources - Tacit Knowledge Premium

People and Latent Knowledge in Organizational LearningSign up

Knowledge management theory has struggled with the...
Usage (application): Knowledge Creation, Explicit Knowledge, Tacit Knowledge

Knowledge Management and Organizational LearningSign up

An extensive presentation explaining both the conc...
Usage (application): Models, Implementation, Overview, Examples

Revisiting Knowledge ManagementSign up

Very good paper by Madhukar Shukla gives historic ...
Usage (application): Integrating Knower with the Knowledge Processes

How to Improve Knowledge Sharing in Knowledge-intensive OrganizationsSign up

This presentation elaborates on the concept of kno...
Usage (application): Knowledge Management, Knowledge Sharing Motivation, Knowledge Sharing Platform. Tacit Knowledge

Overview of Existing Types of KnowledgeSign up

This presentation provides an overview of the diff...
Usage (application): Knowledge Management, Knowledge Types, Tacit, Implicit, Explicit, Declarative, Procedural Knowledge

Knowledge Management Systems ArchitectureSign up

This presentation is about knowledge development a...
Usage (application): Knowledge Management, Knowledge Creation, Knowledge Systems, Knowledge Architecture

Management Accounting of Intangible AssetsSign up

This presentation provides information about intan...
Usage (application): Intangible Assets, Intellectual Capital Measurement

Leveraging Cognition for Competitive Advantage:A Knowledge-Based Strategy ProcessSign up

Article by Senthil K. Muthusamy and Ramaraj Palani...
Usage (application): Knowledge-intensive firms

Knowledge Sharing and Organizational Learning through Communities of PracticesSign up

Knowledge management in Communities of Practice (C...
Usage (application): Knowledge Sharing, Organizational Learning, Communities of Practices, Special Interest Groups

Introduction and Summary of SECISign up

Knowledge Management
Is utilizing tacit (the ...
Usage (application): Initial Understanding of SECI. Start of workshop/training

Introduction and Summary of Intangible Assets (IAS38)Sign up

Accounting treatment of intangible assets:
- ...
Usage (application): Initial Understanding of Intangible Assets, Accounting Treatment

3 Pillars of KMSign up

Three Pillars of Knowledge Management (Wiig)....
Usage (application): Knowledge Management

N-Form OrganizationSign up

The Dynamics of Knowledge Management in an N-Form ...
Usage (application): Knowledge Management, Tacit Knowledge

News about Tacit KnowledgeSign up


Videos about Tacit KnowledgeSign up


Presentations about Tacit KnowledgeSign up


Books about Tacit KnowledgeSign up


More about Tacit KnowledgeSign up


Compare with: SECI model  |  Bridging Epistemologies  |  Johari Window  |  Organizational Learning  |  Organizational Memory  |  Action Learning  |  Knowledge Management (Collison & Parcell)  |  Causal Ambiguity  |  Analogical Strategic Reasoning  |  Bounded Rationality  |  Synectics  |  Storytelling

Special Interest Group Leader

You here


Return to Management Hub: Communication & Skills  |  Knowledge & Intangibles  |  Strategy

More on Management  |  Return to Management Dictionary  | 


This ends our Tacit Knowledge summary and forum.

About 12manage | Advertising | Link to us / Cite us | Privacy | Suggestions | Terms of Service
© 2018 12manage - The Executive Fast Track. V14.1 - Last updated: 19-9-2018. All names ™ of their owners.