03 Main Types of Knowledge: Explicit, Implicit, and Tacit Knowledge

03 Main Types of Knowledge: Explicit, Implicit, and Tacit Knowledge

Understanding the types of knowledge is important for any type of business when forming a knowledge management strategy.  Different types of knowledge cater to different purposes of business organizations and help the business to grow and achieve its goals and objectives.

Even though gaining and sharing knowledge was a business practice from long ago, the formation of knowledge management as a business function is a comparatively new concept to the business world. Understanding the types of knowledge necessary for business growth and identification of the types of knowledge available for the business is the initial step of knowledge management.

There are three main types of knowledge that can be identified commonly.

Explicit Knowledge

Explicit knowledge is also known as expressive knowledge. It is the type of knowledge that can be readily articulated, codified, stored, and accessed. Those are the knowledge that covers the topics that can be easily documented in writing, arrange in a systematic order, stored in a safe place, and accessed when necessary. This can be considered structured information.

Out of all the types f knowledge, explicit knowledge can be easily transferred to the organizational employees or customers. This type of knowledge is usually considered a resource for others. This knowledge can be recorded in various formats such as books, manuals, videos, or databases.

Examples for explicit knowledge are instructions, FAQs, diagrams, one-sheets, code of conduct, financial statements, market reports, and strategy slide decks. Explicit knowledge can be helpful for the employees of the organization when sharing valuable information with coworkers and customers. Apart from that, it can be helpful in streamlining the operation of the production process, when creating a source of collective knowledge to share with others, and when training and assisting new employees.

Implicit Knowledge

Out of all the types of knowledge that can be seen in the business industry, implicit knowledge takes a more practical approach. It can be identified as applying the gained explicit knowledge in a practical scenario.  Implicit knowledge is basically, a learned skill or know-how.

In simple terms, implicit knowledge is about taking the explicit knowledge available in reports, data, instructions, and manuals, and using that knowledge in practical scenarios in the business process. It is considered as what you gain when you learn the best way of doing something.

The main advantage of implicit knowledge is that one can use the knowledge gained through experiencing something and use that knowledge to solve an entirely new problem. This type of knowledge has been excluded in traditional situations from formal knowledge bases due to difficulties in capturing in a scalable way and difficulties in documenting.

Tacit Knowledge

Tacit knowledge is similar to implicit knowledge. It can be considered intangible information that is difficult to explain in a straightforward manner. These are the things that are usually ‘understood’ often without being told or explained. Tacit knowledge is often related to personal or cultural norms.

Not using certain words, phrases, expressions in front of specific people, cultures or demographics is an example of tacit knowledge. Apart from that, the way of expressing gratitude, the way of welcome, the way of showing respect are also considered as examples of tacit knowledge.

Tacit knowledge is informal. It is usually learned over time through experience and generally applies to specific situations. It is difficult to capture or scale tacit knowledge. However, when it can be captured, it should be added to the knowledge base of the business. It can be useful when sharing the gained expertise with someone who needs it such as new employees.

Documentation of tacit knowledge does know have to be a formal document. It can be a simple explanation that is helpful enough to guide someone.

The above-mentioned three main types of knowledge help the business organizations to operate while improving and sharing the knowledge. It can be helpful in using the knowledge management functions to achieve competitive advantages in the target market.

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