The Role of Explicit and Tacit Knowledge in Organizations

Published: 2021-09-03 14:15:13
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The Role of Explicit and Tacit Knowledge in Organizations


In the field of knowledge management, knowledge that is easy for an individual to explain and communicate to others can be termed as explicit and knowledge that is possessed by an individual and difficult to convey to others within the organization can be termed as tacit. As described in Hislop (2009), explicit knowledge is knowledge that is objective, impersonal, context independent, able to be codified, and easily shared. Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, is knowledge that is subjective, personal, context specific, unable to be codified, and difficult to share. Tacit knowledge can be expressed in insight, intuition, and decisions made based on gut feel. (Leonard and Swap, 2005)

The objectivist perspective on knowledge theorizes that knowledge is shared by the transferral of explicit, codified knowledge (in the form of text, a diagram or an electronic document, etc.) from an isolated sender, to a separate receiver. It assumes that no important aspects of this explicit knowledge are lost in the transfer process, and that both sender and receiver derive the same meaning from the knowledge. (Hislop 26) The social-practice perspective views tacit and explicit knowledge as inseparable. Knowledge is developed through practice, as individuals gain experience. It is socially constructed, embedded within the organization's culture, as well as within in the individual constructing the knowledge. (Hislop 38) Also, tacit knowledge can never fully be codified, or converted into an explicit form. In fact, cognitive studies have shown that forcing individuals to describe what they thought they understood about implicitly learned processes often worsens their performance compared to when they are allowed to simply use their tacit knowledge without explicit explanation. (Leonard and Swap, 2005)

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