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Tacit knowledge

What is tacit knowledge?

Wikipedia says,

Tacit knowledge or implicit knowledge (as opposed to formal, codified or explicit knowledge) is the kind of knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it.”

I partly agree.

There are at least two other kinds of tacit knowledge:

  • Skills or knowledge that is knack-based and hard to transfer through means other than experience (i.e. not just hard to transfer through writing or verbalisation);
  • Skills or knowledge that you take so much for granted that you’re almost unaware of it. It may or may not be difficult to transfer, but you’ve never given thought to doing so.

Invisible Expertise

Having children is a great way to shine a spotlight on the knowledge you didn’t know you had: expertise unnoticed and underappreciated.

To name two:

  • That when eating food in a bowl, you can dramatically reduce spillages and the need to poke your food back into the bowl by scooping from the edge inwards towards the middle of the bowl rather than the other way around;
  • That when dunking biscuits in tea, you can avoid drips by pausing momentarily so that the drips fall back into the cup, or are absorbed by the biscuit.

What tacit knowledge is important to your success? What keeps your organisation running? How could you share it?

What can’t you teach your kids?

1 thought on “Tacit knowledge”

  1. This is so good. It’s so true that much knowledge is like this. Is the only way to do this hours of watching and then imitating? Imbibing that knowledge? How does that work in an organisation when it’s hard to make time for that? In my org we have people who have been around a long time. If they leave, no matter how many handovers they write down, we will lose masses of knowledge. I think we need to challenge ourselves more to have regular periods of handing over this knowledge. It also hits home to me the value of promoting from within – building people who observe, are coached by someone and then take what they have imbibed and add their own twist to it. I think this is an area worthy of further exploration…

I'd love to hear your thoughts and recommended resources...