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Understanding Tacit, Implicit, and Explicit Knowledge - And Why Your Team Needs To Use All Three Effectively

author Justin Friedman

When it comes to how you move about and operate in your daily work and life, you put into action a variety of kinds of knowledge. From information that you learned directly via written instruction or verbal commands to knowledge you gained in real-world experiences, many businesses and organizations collect knowledge in order to create a common understanding among constituents. However, how do you know if you are collecting and sharing the right kind of information that is both effective and efficient? 

The internet has no shortage of “knowledge” about the concept of knowledge management. Due to the ever-changing and evolving nature of knowledge work, the concept of knowledge management has continued to grow and expand. Different industries and organizations will utilize knowledge to varying degrees, and the way you collect and implement your knowledge can mean the difference between success and frustration. 

If you are looking to increase your own understanding of knowledge management, and create a clearer knowledge strategy for your company or organization, it is vital to begin to build a basic understanding of the types of knowledge: tacit, explicit, and implicit knowledge. Clearly defining each type, and understanding the purpose of all three for your business processes, can help you increase the productivity and effectiveness of your entire organization.

Knowledge Type Quick-Take

In a hurry, or looking for a fast definition of each type of knowledge in your knowledge management system? Here is a breakdown of each:

Explicit Knowledge: Explicit Knowledge is any data or information that you can quickly and effectively communicate via written word of voice. Any “how to do this” type of knowledge that directs others to an end.

Implicit Knowledge: Taking explicit knowledge and putting it to use is how one gains implicit knowledge. This type of knowledge can aid you in a variety of situations outside the environment where the explicit knowledge was captured.

Tacit Knowledge: As the most complicated of the three types, tacit knowledge is gained through personal experience, but is far more complex to communicate to others who do not have the same first-hand experience.

allanswered knowledge management

Breaking Down The Differences

If you are a professional tasked with operating or building a Knowledge Management System, understanding the various types of knowledge and their usefulness can aid you in creating a high-powered system that helps rather than hinders.

To help you begin to categorize your knowledge, let’s dive deeper into each kind of knowledge and how they differ from one another:

Explicit Knowledge

Explicit Knowledge is often the first knowledge encountered when you are new to a concept. Rather than hoping that understanding magically appears, detailed instructions or verbal teaching will often dictate the “what” and “how” of a concept or action to help the individual get started. From policies and procedures to training manuals, explicit knowledge is the easiest form of information to write down, type up, and store for future reference in a knowledge management system.

Implicit Knowledge - Where Knowledge Grows 

Once an individual knows and understands the explicit knowledge of a concept as prescribed by a manual or supervisor, implicit knowledge takes that knowledge a step further. By implicitly understanding the reason underlying a dictated set of instructions can help one better understand why the course of action is taking place, and allows for collaboration and leads to new and improved ways to operate.

Tacit Knowledge - The Combination of Experience & Inner Confidence

The powerful combination of explicit and implicit knowledge creates a third form of understanding: tacit understanding. Tacit Knowledge is the information and understanding that an individual or team gains through an extended period of ongoing experience with a subject or concept.

Much like your grandmother’s famous chocolate chip cookie recipe, tacit knowledge is gained by the addition of contextual experience to a base-layer of information. While one may be able to clearly understand the concept, explaining it can often prove difficult. Like a gut feeling, sometimes tacit knowledge is just something you know and feel.

Tacit Knowledge is one of the leading reasons that many companies will choose to hire from within the organization for a new role. Rather than try to teach both the role and company culture, an employee with tacit knowledge can jump in and learn the explicit knowledge of the new role while still retaining the effective tacit knowledge of what it means to be part of the team.

Boost Your Use Of Organizational Tacit, Implicit, and Explicit Knowledge With A Knowledge System

Understanding how knowledge is categorized will aid you in knowing how your organizational information is traveling throughout your business. While your tacit knowledge experts - often your executives and veteran team members - may understand how to utilize explicit knowledge in the most effective way through their implicit experience, not having a system in place that allows that knowledge to flow freely down the chain can leave the most inexperienced members reinventing the wheel every time.

One of the best ways to ensure that your knowledge base is helping your entire organization move forward efficiently is through a powerful knowledge management suite. Systems such as AllAnswered are built to not only collect valuable explicit knowledge, but to create a suitable environment where the implicit knowledge and tacit knowledge gained through everyday operations can be captured. 

When all members of an organization can access the collected tacit knowledge of their most experienced members, explicit knowledge is bolstered and implicit knowledge is gained faster. By delegating a space for all three to be collected and assessed regularly, teams can grow in their efficiency and productivity. In fact, AllAnswered clients have reported an 18% increase in their team’s overall productivity across the board. Revenue-wise, this equates to hundreds of thousands of dollars in team member value added to your teams!

Want to learn more about knowledge, management systems, and more tips for helping your organization and enterprise run more effectively? Visit AllAnswered online today to bring the power of your knowledge to new heights. Harness the power of your team’s collected brainpower and boost your potential with AllAnswered All-in-one Knowledge Base!


Justin Friedman

Marketing manager at Technology enthusiast. Obsessed with SaaS and team collaboration tools. I am always learning and love to help!