This website covers topics on knowledge management, personal effectiveness, theory of constraints, amongst other topics. Opinions expressed here are strictly those of the owner, Jack Vinson, and those of the commenters.

Tacit knowledge is all about conversation

elephant talkNancy Dixon has a great discussion of tacit knowledge and how people engage in Conversations That Share Tacit Knowledge:

Our tacit knowledge is drawn from our experience as well as our years of study and is stored in bits and pieces in our brain, that is, it is not stored as answers or explanations but as fragments. What we call “tacit knowledge” is the human ability to draw on those fragments to construct a response to a new problem or question.

I particularly like her emphasis that tacit knowledge is completely tied up in our capability to draw together bits and pieces. The thing (if it is a thing) is inseparable from the act.

This kind of knowledge cannot be stored in a database or on your favorite technology platform. And Nancy makes the point that the deepest tacit knowledge transfer doesn't work well in virtual meetings, collaboration platforms, email (of course), or on the phone either. I'd suggest that some of these media can work for tacit transfer, but the elements Nancy discusses need to be brought out explicitly: people have to be willing to spend the time to develop an understanding of context and the current state-of-mind of the participants. Then the participants can start building those deeper connections to vital knowledge nuggets.

[Photo: "Elephant Talk" by Gina]

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