The concept of tacit knowing comes from scientist and philosopher Michael Polanyi. It is important to understand that he wrote about a process (hence tacit knowing) and not a form of knowledge. However, his phrase has been taken up to name a form of knowledge that is apparently wholly or partly inexplicable.
Capturing tacit knowledge and converting it into rules that the computer can use is a costly business. It requires an extensive time commitment from the domain expert and the special skills of the knowledge developer. At times, the expert might list interest in the project and even feel like quitting. Perhaps the knowledge developer and the expert just never seem to hit it off their interpersonal chemistry, or the knowledge developer may use the wrong tool or approach.
Working with experts in capturing their tacit knowledge is not a straightforward routine. For example, the methods or tools chosen for knowledge capture depend on the temperament, personality, and attitude of the expert and whether the knowledge automation system is being built around a single expert or multiple experts. Another important factor is whether one or more knowledge developers will be involved in the building process.
Before beginning the knowledge capture process, a knowledge developer needs to have an understanding of the expert’s level of expertise. The knowledge developer can look at several indicators of expertise as well as specific qualifications to determine whether someone is an expert. One of the most important indicators is the expert’s communication skills.
This lesson will help you to understand the basics of tacit knowledge and various capturing techniques.
By definition, tacit knowledge is knowledge that people carry in their minds and is, therefore, difficult to access. Often, people are not aware of the knowledge they possess or how it can be valuable to others. Tacit knowledge is considered more valuable because it provides context for people, places, ideas, and experiences. Effective transfer of tacit knowledge generally requires extensive personal contact and trust.
Tacit knowledge is not easily shared. One of Polanyi’s famous aphorisms is: ”We know more than we can tell.” Tacit knowledge consists often of habits and culture that we do not recognize in ourselves. In the field of knowledge management the concept of tacit knowledge refers to a knowledge which is only known by an individual and that is difficult to communicate to the rest of an organization. Knowledge that is easy to communicate is called explicit knowledge. The process of transforming tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge is known as codification or articulation.
A review of the literature reveals as many definitions of knowledge capture as there are authors. Some of the definitions are interesting:
Knowledge developer’ An ‘applied brain drain’.
A ‘manual craft that depends on the skill and effectiveness of the knowledge developer’.
The ‘transfer of problem-solving expertise from some knowledge source to a repository or a program’.
The ‘process by which knowledge management system developers discover the knowledge that company experts use to perform the task of interest’.
An investigative experiment process involving interviews and protocol analysis in order to build a KM system.