- Implicit or tacit knowledge is subjective, experience-based
knowledge. Typically, it is not easily expressed in words, sentences,
and formulae. It is highly context specific. It includes, but
is not limited, to beliefs, values, tradecraft, mental models,
and technical skills. Tacit knowledge resides in formal and informal
networks of experts and communities of reflective practice. Some
of this knowledge can be codified, made explicit, and migrated
into content repositories and marketplaces. Most is accessed through
person-to-person knowledge sharing or social interactions. New
opportunities for sharing are made possible through pervasive,
secure, online interactivity through communities of practice.
Practitioners are developing heightened appreciation for the importance
of such vibrant sources of tacit knowledge.
Tacit knowledge includes the informal knowledge that exists through
common practice and is shared via e-mails, communities of practice,
expert networks, and other permutations of online interaction.
As organizations develop their e-knowledge competencies, they
enhance their capacity to nurture, harvest, and use informal,
The policies, practices, competencies, networks, communities,
and marketplaces for exchanging explicit and tacit e-knowledge are
developing today. Their refinement to handle continuously revised
knowledge will catalyze and drive the revolution in learning and
knowledge management tomorrow.
The nature of knowledge is that it makes
Peter Drucker, 1999
Interactions Between Tacit
and Explicit Knowledge
By definition, knowledge is dynamic, not static. Knowledge
continuously changes meaning and form. Whether knowledge is held
by individuals, organizations, communities of practice or networks
of organizations, the content, context, and community in which it
is used are always changing.
It is especially critical to understand how elements
of explicit and tacit knowledge can transcend their current states
through progressive cycles of conversion. Ikujiro Nonaka (1999)
has captured the essence of the relationships and interactions of
tacit and explicit knowledge in four modes: socialization, externalization,
combination, and internalization. These knowledge conversions are
portrayed in the figure next page.
Depicting the Interactions Between Tacit
and Explicit Knowledge
In their work on the integration of e-learning and
knowledge management, Woelk and Agarwal (2002) have schematically
represented the transitions of knowledge between Nonakas four
phases. They have added a fifth phase, cognition, in which the knowledge
seeker makes sense of tacit knowledge in context through applying
it to a business problem.
as a Thing and a Flow
In recent years, practitioners have begun to understand
the complexities of modeling knowledge in all its forms. In consequence,
the assumption of a clean delineation between tacit and explicit
knowledge and the migration of knowledge between different states
is questionable. The emerging ecology of knowledge representation
suggests that knowledge exists as both a thing and
a flow at the same time. The thing is
knowledge that is known (the know-what)
and can be formally shared and used. The flow is the
changing contexts or passage of knowledge through the informal structures
of organizations where communities of practice and others make sense
of it and convert it from knowable to known.