!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: Explicit vs. Tacit Knowledge

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Explicit vs. Tacit Knowledge

The University of Malaya publishes lecture notes for some of its courses online. I was interested in seeing what the course on "Information Technology and Knowledge-Based Economy," offered by Ng Boon-Kwee, an associate professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies, amounted to. Notes for seven of the eight course lectures are online, but only those for the final two lectures — dealing with the "Knowledge Based Economy" — are not password protected.

The material in the notes for Lectures 7 and 8 is a well-organized presentation of basic concepts — data, information, knowledge, etc. I was particularly interested in the summary Boon-Kwee provides of the distinction between explicit and tacit knowledge:

Tacit: Personal, context-specific.
Explicit: Can be codified and explicated.

Tacit: Difficult to formalize, record, encode, or articulate.
Explicit: Can be codified and transmitted in a systematic and formal language.

Development process
Tacit: Developed through a process of trial and error encountered in practice.
Explicit: Developed through explication of tacit understanding and interpretation of information.

Tacit: Stored in the heads of people.
Explicit: Stored in documents, databases, Web pages, e-mails, charts, etc.

IT support
Tacit: Hard to manage, share, or support with IT.
Explicit: Well supported by existing IT.

Medium needed
Tacit: Needs a rich communication medium.
Explicit: Can be transferred through conventional electronic channels.

Boon-Kwee concludes his lectures by defining the three elements of knowledge management — knowledge acquisition, knowledge sharing, and knowledge utilization. I will be looking at knowledge acquisition and knowledge sharing in later posts.


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