Tacit Knowledge

Very loosely, tacit knowledge collects all those things that we know how to do but perhaps do not know how to explain (at least symbolically).

Tacit knowledge (as opposed to formal, codified or explicit knowledge) is the kind of knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it.

Organisations are full of tacit knowledge that resides in the heads of employees. Many organisations try to codify this knowledge but with limited success.

 

What is Tacit Knowledge?

…..unwritten, unspoken, a vast storehouse of knowledge held by practically every normal human being, based on his or her emotions, experiences, insights, intuition, observations and internalised information.

… knowledge that the actor knows he has (how to catch a ball, tie a knot, mark a line) but which he cannot, nonetheless, describe in terms other than its own (skilful) performance.

Tacit knowledge is very sticky. Employees like to hold onto their tacit knowledge and will share it only when conditions are right or where there are benefits to sharing.

 

Tacit Knowledge and your Organisation

Tacit knowledge is a particular challenge for knowledge management. Firms would like to prevent knowledge loss due to employee turnover. However, tacit knowledge almost always goes with the employee.

Tacit knowledge is essential to competitive advantage because it's difficult for competitors to copy. It's the reason some firms pump out innovation after innovation while other firms struggle.