Implementing a new strategy in any organization takes a lot of hard work. Managers have to decide on what are the best tools, objectives and action steps. More importantly, teams should have a thorough grasp of relevant concepts in order to be productive. When it comes to knowledge management, there are three main knowledge types – explicit, implicit and tacit – to take into account. Because knowledge management is such a multifaceted process, there are many jargons, solutions and methodologies. Understanding these three components of knowledge will help you maximize your knowledge management strategy and get effective results.
What are explicit, implicit and tacit knowledge?
Before diving into the specifics of explicit, implicit and tacit knowledge, one must first have an understanding of what knowledge is. Knowledge-driven businesses have an advantage to drive efficient business activities by applying readily-available knowledge from a comprehensive, well-managed ‘knowledge base’.
In a business context, knowledge refers to the accumulation of skills, experiences, capabilities and insight of an organization. All this is created, managed and stored in the form of explicit, implicit and tacit knowledge.
Explicit knowledge is any kind of knowledge that is easily articulated, written and stored in physical form so that it is accessible. Common examples of explicit knowledge are books and documents.
Implicit knowledge is information that is transferable to skills. One way to think about it is when someone is performing tasks, they are displaying implicit knowledge, such as performing effective communication. Implicit knowledge is where often, individuals are not even aware that they are acquiring these skills. They can also be transferred from one job to another.
Tacit knowledge is a less-tangible form of knowledge gained through personal experiences and individual contexts. Thus, tacit knowledge is harder to articulate on paper. Examples of tacit knowledge include language or intuition.
The difference between Explicit Knowledge vs Tacit Knowledge
Because tacit knowledge is ingrained in the mind of the individual and shaped through personal development, it is harder to codify than explicit knowledge.
For instance, an experienced customer support representative may be able to judge by intuition when a customer is getting frustrated, as compared to a new hire who has no prior experience. This skill is a result of the experienced staff’s own hands-on experience, observations and surroundings. Thus, the result is a cognitive set of skills gained through experiential situations. On the contrary, explicit knowledge is based on objective and logical information and is more technical in nature.
As a result, explicit knowledge is easily transferred to others in the workplace through documentation of this knowledge in physical or digital form. Employees who possess certain explicit knowledge can easily articulate this to others by explaining the logic behind their skillset.
Strategies to turn tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge
Success in today’s workplace is defined by a vast range of skills, knowledge and experiences that can promote the flow of ideas and productivity. Solely relying on employees’ explicit knowledge can stunt business growth, since the organization is essentially overlooking important soft skills. To ensure business longevity, it is important to make sure that tacit knowledge is transferable from high-performing employees to peers.
Choose the right tool
Tacit knowledge is a unique and in-depth representation of an individual’s experiences, so it requires direct instruction from the employee. However, it can be taxing to take time off to break down and rationalize each piece of information to multiple teammates. Having the right tools to effectively capture knowledge will only require a small part of an individual’s time. This way, they can share important tips and best practices with their teams without interrupting their current workflow.
Make documenting knowledge a part of the work process
Knowledge sharing may not be part of an organization’s culture, which stops employees from mentoring and learning from their peers. Because tacit knowledge is a cognitive process, it requires a higher level of communication to make it work. Encouraging a workplace culture of knowledge sharing through retrospective meetings provides a space for collaboration, where employees can take turns to share unique experiences, fact-finds and learning points for others.
Incentivize knowledge sharing
A challenge that many organizations face with knowledge management is that employees are not actually getting anything out of it. With quarterly targets to hit, it’s easy to ignore the fact that your peers may not be up-to-date best practices. Pay attention to employees that are contributing to the knowledge culture of the organization. Rewards can come in the form of prizes, such as dining coupons, or even validation on company message boards. This way, employees will be more encouraged to participate in knowledge sharing.
For more tips, check out 5 tips on how to encourage knowledge sharing in the workplace.
Empower your workplace with Kipwise
The right knowledge management tool goes a long way in building a knowledge-driven workplace. Kipwise is a modern knowledge management system with a feature-rich centralized dashboard so teams can capture and share knowledge easily. Find out more about how Kipwise can empower your organization today.