Do You Know The Different Types of Knowledge?

February 22nd, 2017

“Gaining knowledge is the first step to wisdom. Sharing it is the first step to humanity.”-- Unknown

 

Today’s post is written by Heather Powell, Director of Customer Services & Project Manager at SafeSourcing Inc.

“Understanding the different forms that knowledge can exist in, and thereby being able to distinguish between various types of knowledge, is an essential step for knowledge management (KM). For example, it should be fairly evident that the knowledge captured in a document would need to be managed (i.e. stored, retrieved, shared, changed, etc.) in a totally different way than that gathered over the years by an expert craftsman.”1.

Over the centuries many attempts have been made to classify knowledge, and different fields have focused on different dimensions. Within business and KM, two types of knowledge are usually defined, namely explicit and tacit knowledge. The former refers to codified knowledge, such as that found in documents, while the latter refers to non-codified and often personal/experience-based knowledge. KM and organizational learning theory almost always take root in the interaction and relationship between these two types of knowledge. Some researchers make a further distinction and talk of embedded knowledge. This way, one differentiates between knowledge embodied in people and that embedded in processes, organizational culture, routines, etc. (Horvath 2000).

Explicit: information or knowledge that is set out in tangible form.2

Implicit: information or knowledge that is not set out in tangible form but could be made explicit.2

Tacit: information or knowledge that one would have extreme difficulty operationally setting out in tangible form.2

Embedded: knowledge that is locked in processes, products, culture, routines, artifacts, or structures (Horvath 2000, Gamble & Blackwell 2001).1

All knowledge is a mixture of tacit and explicit elements rather than being one or the other. The “build it and they will come” expectation typifies this approach: Organizations take an exhaustive inventory of tangible knowledge (i.e., documents, digital records) and make them accessible to all employees. Senior management is then mystified as to why employees are not using this wonderful new resource. In fact, knowledge management is broader and includes leveraging the value of the organizational knowledge and know-how that accumulates over time. This approach is a much more holistic and user-centered approach that begins not with an audit of existing documents but with a needs analysis to better understand how improved knowledge sharing may benefit specific individuals, groups, and the organization as a whole. Successful knowledge-sharing examples are gathered and documented in the form of lessons learned and best practices and these then form the kernel of organizational stories.3

Stay tuned for next month’s blog where we explore more about Knowledge Management Framework.

We hope you enjoyed today’s blog. For more information on how SafeSourcing can assist you in exploring your procurement solutions for your business or on our “Risk Free” trial program, please contact a SafeSourcing Customer Service Representative.  We have an entire customer services team waiting to assist you today.

We look forward to your comments.

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Resource: 

  1. http://www.knowledge-management-tools.net/different-types-of-knowledge.html
  2. http://www.knowledge-management-cafe.com/faq/what-explicit-implicit-and-tacit-knowledge
  3. https://mitpress.mit.edu/sites/default/files/titles/content/9780262015080_sch_0001.pdf

 

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