Becoming explicit

print to digitalOur old technology — paper — gave us an idea of knowledge that said that knowledge comes from experts who are filtered, printed, and then it’s settled, because that’s how books work. Our new technology shows us we are complicit in knowing. In order to let knowledge get as big as our new medium allows, we have to recognize that knowledge comes from all of us (including experts), it is to be linked, shared, discussed, argued about, made fun of, and is never finished and done. It is thoroughly ours – something we build together, not a product manufactured by unknown experts and delivered to us as if it were more than merely human. – David Weinberger

Helping people become explicit in their work, as David Weinberger suggests in the above article, was my concluding advice to delegates at the Learning Technologies Summer Forum in London yesterday [curated tweets by Martin Couzins]. As learning and work get integrated, the co-creation of organizational knowledge develops from the sharing of our implicit knowledge. This is a messy, never-finished process that requires continuous engagement, usually through conversation. I think it is becoming rather obvious that knowledge cannot be directly transferred, but better understanding can emerge from open sharing. In the digital age, supporting knowledge sharing can be a key role for learning and development in the organization.

The nature of work is shifting. The dominant framework is moving from corporations to networks. As I explained in my presentation, knowledge networks are optimized when they are based on openness, which enables transparency, and in turn fosters diversity, thus reinforcing the basic principle of openness. Over time, trust emerges. Openness can be supported through social networks, as they are non-hierarchical by design, allowing anyone to connect to everyone. Supporting social networks becomes a business imperative, and a potential role for learning & development staff. They can also help people develop personal knowledge mastery skills, a foundational competence for the connected workplace. As the graphic below shows, becoming explicit can have a direct impact on innovation.

becoming explicitBooks gave us the illusion that knowledge was stable. It never was. Now it’s time to think of organizational learning as a process of shared attempts to become explicit. As Gerd Leonhard remarked in the opening keynote yesterday, a critical skill in the near-future workplace will be sense-making. I could not agree more.

5 thoughts on “Becoming explicit”

  1. Hiya,

    I was a delegate in your session at the learning technologies seminar and I enjoyed your presentation very much.

    With the above diagram, I was wandering where motivation would sit. For any learner to be prepared to share and to join the social learning experience surely we need to consider the WIIFM factor?

    If learner can not see the benefit of engaging, why should they?

    I have I found this to be a real objection to social learning and a willingness to share.

    This has not been an objection to learning in general, but just about sharing ideas.

    You gave an example where the re numeration for a team was based on being first past the post, andI work in a sales environment which has a similar philosophy. However they do not share the same pot of reward, but there is competition.

    I would appreciate any thoughts and ideas on this, other then changing the way the business is run.

    Over the coming months I am running a programme whichever hope to install some social learning behaviours with a select group who have been
    Briefed on what I expect from them across the period. We have not yet seen this happen so I am interested to see how much social learning will actually take place.

    Happy to let you know if you are interested.

    Kind regards

    • Motivation is not part of the second diagram, Ian. It’s a description of how a knowledge network optimally works. It’s not from the perspective of learners & teachers either. In a knowledge network, everyone is both teacher and learner. The diagram is based on research into networks of professionals sharing knowledge.

      Dan Pink in his book, Drive, concluded that financial compensation should be negotiated up front, and then taken out of the work equation. If people feel that they are adequately compensated, then they can focus on their work. Bonuses only create artificial games within a structure (work) that is already a type of game. Once money is no longer an issue, then we should focus on Pink’s three prime motivators: Autonomy, Mastery, and a Sense of Purpose.

  2. That’s great thanks. I am working to use financial gain as the carrot to allow people to focus on their own improvement. Will see how it goes. Thank you.

  3. Many years ago I first learned the power of brainstorming which I now recognise as a method for making knowledge explicit pre-digital age. Brainstorming relies on someone sharing an idea and others adding to it in an environment of trust and safety. New digital tools are making this possible on a scale unimaginable before.


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