the codification of knowledge

Nick Milton raises an interesting point about the terms implicit, explicit, and tacit knowledge. Do you know what each term means? It seems that many in the knowledge management discipline do not.

Which of these three most closely matches your understanding of the term “Explicit Knowledge”

A. Knowledge which has been explained in some way (spoken or recorded)

B. Knowledge which has been recorded (eg in documents, files etc)

C. Knowledge which can be explained, but may or may not have been either spoken or recorded.

About 40 people answered the poll, and the results were as follows.

A- 23%

B – 53%

C – 23%

So the participants were evenly split between those who thought that explicit knowledge was synonymous with recorded knowledge, and those who thought that it wasn’t. And among those who thought it wasn’t, there was an even split between exactly where the line lies between tacit and explicit.

Imagine this was another discipline. Imagine if doctors could not agree whether coma and death were the same thing, and those who thought they were different, could not agree on the line between death and coma lies. It would be dangerous chaos. —The problem with “tacit/explicit”

Nick goes on to show that these terms are not used in the ISO KM standard and that we should not use them at all and instead be clear about what we are talking about — impossible to express, can be expressed but has not been yet, expressed in speech but not documented, recorded knowledge, or information.

Given this state of confusion I have updated one of the knowledge management graphics that I use frequently.

network era knowledge flow from personal mastery to organizational curation

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