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The concept of tacit knowing comes from scientist and philosopher Michael Polanyi. It is important to note 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.
By definition, 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.
The tacit aspects of knowledge are those that cannot be codified, but can only be transmitted via training or gained through personal experience. Tacit knowledge has been described as “know-how” (as opposed to “know-what” [facts] and “know-why” [science]) . It involves learning and skill but not in a way that can be written down. The simplest example of the nature and value of tacit knowledge is that one does not know how to ride a bike or swim due to reading a textbook, but only through personal experimentation, by observing others, and/or being guided by an instructor.
Tacit knowledge has been found to be a crucial input to the innovation process. A nation’s ability to innovate depends on its level of tacit knowledge of how to innovate (conduct research, develop prototypes of new products & processes, adapt these prototypes into models fit for mass-production) and of how to implement innovations into manufacturing, defense, communications, transportation, etc.
Eugene Gendlin has developed practices for explicating 'what we know but can't yet say' - knowledge we 'feel' - for both theory development and self-exploration. His book 'Experience and the Creation of Meaning' describes seven ways in which 'explicit' and 'implicit' knowing come from each other. R K Wagner and R J Sternberg, authors of Tacit knowledge inventory for managers (Psychological Corporation, San Antonio, 1991) have also worked on methods for explicating tacit knowledge. Others, however believe it is not possible to explicate it.
- 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.
Procedural knowledge (know-how)
- Karl E. Sveiby's tacit knowledge web site
- More on tacit knowledge in organizations
- Dictionary of Philosophy of Mind - tacit knowledge
- Tacit knowledge, tacit knowing or behaving? by Stephen Gourlay (PDF)
- The Duality of Knowledge
- Website with many of Eugene Gendlin's papers, and discussions of his practicesde:Implizites Wissennl:Onbewuste kennis
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