In today’s rapidly changing workplace, knowledge is power. But not all knowledge is created equal.
Explicit knowledge refers to knowledge that can be easily articulated, codified and shared in a formal and systematic manner, while tacit knowledge is implicit, personal, and difficult to articulate or transfer, as it is deeply rooted in an individual’s experiences, skills, insights, and intuitions.
Explicit vs. Tacit Knowledge
|Explicit Knowledge||Tacit Knowledge|
|Explicit knowledge refers to knowledge that is documented, codified, and can be easily transferred through written or verbal communication.||Tacit knowledge represents knowledge that is typically personal, experiential, and difficult to articulate or convey explicitly to others.|
|It is tangible and can be expressed in a formal manner, such as through books, manuals, or databases.||It is often intangible and resides within an individual’s mind, developed through experience, intuition, and observation.|
|Explicit knowledge can be acquired through formal education, training programs, or explicit sharing of information.||Tacit knowledge is acquired through immersive experiences, practice, and observation, often through implicit learning or apprenticeship.|
|It can be easily shared and transferred to others as it is explicit and can be articulated or written down.||It is challenging to transfer to others directly as it relies on personal experiences, insights, and skills that are difficult to capture in explicit form.|
|Explicit knowledge examples include scientific principles, mathematical formulas, or standard operating procedures.||Tacit knowledge examples include skills like riding a bicycle, playing a musical instrument, or intuition gained through years of experience.|
|It is valuable for its ease of dissemination, consistent application, and its ability to form the basis for systematic learning and problem-solving.||It is highly valuable as it encompasses practical expertise, intuition, and insights that can lead to innovative solutions and expertise in complex domains.|
What is Explicit Knowledge?
Explicit knowledge refers to knowledge that is easily codified, articulated, and transferred in a formal or written manner. It is tangible and can be documented, stored, and communicated through various mediums such as documents, databases, manuals, or explicit instructions.
Explicit knowledge is typically objective, factual, and easily accessible to individuals within an organization or society. Examples of explicit knowledge include scientific theories, mathematical formulas, procedural guidelines, documented best practices, and textbooks. It can be easily shared, disseminated, and learned by others through reading, studying, or following explicit instructions.
What is Tacit Knowledge?
Tacit knowledge refers to knowledge that is deeply rooted in an individual’s experiences, insights, beliefs, and values. It is often difficult to articulate or express in a formal or codified manner.
Tacit knowledge is highly personal and subjective, residing in an individual’s mind and body based on their expertise, intuition, and practical know-how. Unlike explicit knowledge, it is not easily transferable through written or verbal communication alone.
Tacit knowledge is acquired through observation, imitation, practice, and hands-on experience. It includes skills, expertise, judgment, and context-specific knowledge that individuals develop over time. Tacit knowledge is often shared through personal interactions, mentorship, apprenticeship, and experiential learning rather than explicit documentation.
Pros and cons of Explicit and Tacit Knowledge
Pros of explicit knowledge
- Can be easily shared and accessed by others
- Is more objective and less prone to interpretation
- Is more likely to be accurate and up-to-date
Cons of explicit knowledge
- Can be costly and time-consuming to create
- Requires specialized skills to develop and maintain
- Is less flexible and adaptable than tacit knowledge
Examples of Explicit and Tacit Knowledge in the workplace
Examples of explicit knowledge in the workplace
- Standard operating procedures (SOPs) or manuals that outline step-by-step instructions for performing specific tasks.
- Company policies and guidelines are documented in employee handbooks.
- Technical specifications and engineering drawings for product development.
- Financial reports and data analysis that provide insights into business performance.
Examples of tacit knowledge in the workplace
- The ability of an experienced salesperson to intuitively understand customer needs and preferences.
- A skilled chef’s ability to create unique and flavorful recipes without relying on precise measurements.
- The expertise of a seasoned project manager in managing complex projects and navigating unforeseen challenges.
How to leverage both types of knowledge
- Use explicit knowledge to build a foundation.
If you’re new to a particular field or job, start by learning the explicit knowledge. This will give you a strong foundation on which to build your tacit knowledge. For example, if you’re starting a new job in marketing, make sure you understand the basics of marketing theory before trying to apply your own creative ideas.
- Use tacit knowledge to add value.
Once you have a solid understanding of explicit knowledge, you can start leveraging your tacit knowledge to add value. This could involve applying your own creativity and experiences to solve problems or develop new ideas. For example, if you’re a marketing professional with years of experience, you might be able to come up with innovative ways to reach customers that younger, less experienced marketers wouldn’t think of.
- Combine both types of knowledge for maximum impact.
The most effective way to use both types of knowledge is to combine them. For example, if you’re a marketing manager with explicit knowledge of the industry and tacit knowledge of creative strategies, you can use both types to create an effective marketing campaign.
Key differences between Explicit and Tacit Knowledge
- Refers to knowledge that is formal, codified, and can be easily articulated, communicated, and shared with others.
- It is typically tangible and can be documented in various forms, such as documents, manuals, databases, or explicit instructions.
- Explicit knowledge is easy to transmit, store, and replicate. It can be taught, learned, and transferred through formal training, writing, or explicit communication.
- Tacit knowledge refers to knowledge that is personal, experiential, and often difficult to articulate or codify into explicit form.
- It is deeply rooted in an individual’s experiences, skills, intuitions, insights, and personal beliefs.
- Tacit knowledge is often subconscious and difficult to communicate through formal language or explicit instructions.
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Explicit knowledge is formalized, easily communicated, and can be stored in databases or documents. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is personal, experiential, and difficult to articulate or transfer. Both types of knowledge are essential for effective knowledge management and decision-making. Organizations must recognize the importance of capturing and sharing both explicit and tacit knowledge to foster innovation, improve problem-solving, and enhance overall performance in today’s dynamic and competitive business environment.