Explicit and implicit knowledge
Explicit knowledge is information that can be easily codified and communicated, such as information that is shared in documents, manuals or reports. It is usually stored in databases or other electronic formats, and it is usually acquired through formal learning processes.
Implicit knowledge is knowledge that is acquired through experience and observation and is embedded in the minds of individuals. It is difficult to articulate, is often subjective, and can be difficult to transfer to others. It is acquired through individual practice and experience, and it is often communicated through conversations, stories, and informal conversations. In management, implicit knowledge is valuable knowledge that can be used to sharpen decision making, problem solving, and innovation.
Example of explicit and implicit knowledge
Examples of Explicit Knowledge:
- The instructions for assembling a piece of furniture.
- The contents of a scientific report, such as the results of an experiment or a survey.
- A company’s policies and procedures, such as its human resources manual.
- A map of a city or country.
Examples of Implicit Knowledge:
- An expert chess player’s intuition about which moves to make in a game.
- A doctor's experience in diagnosing a patient's illness.
- A chef's ability to adjust the seasoning of a dish according to taste.
- A mechanic's ability to troubleshoot a car's engine problems.
When to use explicit and implicit knowledge
An organization should use explicit and implicit knowledge depending on the context and the purpose. Explicit knowledge is more suitable for sharing facts and data, while implicit knowledge is best for gaining insights and understanding complex concepts. Explicit knowledge can be used for:
- Establishing processes and procedures: Explicit knowledge can be used to document processes and procedures, and provide a set of instructions to staff.
- Providing guidance and instruction: Explicit knowledge can be used to provide instructions and guidance to staff, customers, and stakeholders.
- Sharing information: Explicit knowledge can be used to share information, such as research, best practices, and industry trends.
Implicit knowledge can be used for:
- Generating ideas and innovation: Implicit knowledge can be used to generate ideas and encourage creativity and innovation.
- Developing insight and understanding: Implicit knowledge can be used to gain insight into complex issues and understand the root cause of problems.
- Creating a sense of belonging: Implicit knowledge can be used to create a sense of belonging and community within an organization.
Types of explicit and implicit knowledge
An introduction to the different types of explicit and implicit knowledge is important to understand how knowledge is acquired and used in various contexts. Below is a list of different types of explicit and implicit knowledge:
- Explicit knowledge can include written documents, encyclopedias, manuals, and other codified materials, as well as formal training programs.
- Implicit knowledge can include skills, perspectives, and insights acquired through practice and experience, such as those acquired through problem solving, personal relationships, and observation.
- Tacit knowledge is knowledge that is not easily expressed in words and is acquired through direct experience and observation, such as by observing a master craftsman or engaging in a conversation with an expert.
- Organizational knowledge is knowledge that is shared within an organization, such as through corporate culture, organizational norms, and the shared experiences of its members.
- Social knowledge is knowledge that is acquired through interaction with others, such as through conversations, storytelling, and group activities.
- Contextual knowledge is knowledge that is acquired through the context of a particular situation, such as through research, field studies, and surveys.
Advantages of explicit and implicit knowledge
Explicit and implicit knowledge both have distinct advantages. Explicit knowledge is easier to access and share, while implicit knowledge is deeper and more complex. Here are some of the advantages of each:
- Explicit knowledge is easier to access, store, and share, making it an invaluable asset to any organization. It is also easier to measure and track, making it easier to identify areas of improvement.
- Implicit knowledge is deeply embedded in the minds of individuals, and it is often the source of creativity and innovation. It is difficult to access and share, but it can be highly valuable to an organization if it is properly harnessed.
- Explicit knowledge is often more reliable than implicit knowledge, as it is based on facts, data, and research, while implicit knowledge is often subjective and based on personal experience.
- Implicit knowledge can be used to inform decision making, problem solving, and innovation, making it a valuable asset for any organization. It also helps to build relationships and foster collaboration within a team.
Limitations of explicit and implicit knowledge
One of the main limitations of both explicit and implicit knowledge is the difficulty of transferring knowledge from one person to another. Both types of knowledge require different methods of communication and understanding. Explicit knowledge is easier to transfer in a formal, organized way, but it is difficult to capture the full depth of implicit knowledge.
- Explicit knowledge is limited in scope - it is limited to the information that has been codified and documented, and it is difficult to capture the nuances of complex or contextual information.
- Implicit knowledge is difficult to access and transfer - it is often subjective and relies heavily on the individual’s experiences and understanding. It is difficult to capture the full depth of implicit knowledge, and it is difficult to transfer it to another person in an efficient manner.
- Both types of knowledge also have limitations when it comes to accuracy and reliability - explicit knowledge is only as reliable as the sources it is based on, and implicit knowledge can be difficult to verify and validate.
Introduction: In addition to explicit and implicit knowledge, there are other approaches to understanding knowledge.
- Tacit knowledge is knowledge that is acquired through experience and observation, but is not easily articulated. It is often based on intuition, and it is difficult to transfer to other people.
- Experiential knowledge is knowledge that is gained through direct experiences, such as knowledge gained through working with a particular tool or object.
- Embodied knowledge is knowledge that is acquired through physical experiences, such as learning to play a musical instrument or practice a sport.
- Social knowledge is knowledge that is acquired through interactions with other people and through shared experiences with a group.
- Cultural knowledge is knowledge that is acquired through a shared culture or tradition, such as language, customs, and values.
|Explicit and implicit knowledge — recommended articles|
|Tribal knowledge — Tacit and explicit knowledge — Areas of knowledge — Knowledge and experience — Knowledge resources — Process of learning — Information and knowledge — Knowledge — Creative thinking skills|
- Meusburger, P. (2001). Knowledge (explicit and implicit): philosophical aspects. International encyclopedia of the social and behavioral sciences, 8126-8132.