Set yourself apart from others by displaying outstanding tacit knowledge

Knowledge is the understanding of facts, concepts, skills, or experiences that can be used for various purposes. There are seven commonly-known areas of knowledge, which will be discussed later on in this blog, but here, the focus is on tacit knowledge. So what is tacit knowledge, exactly?

Tacit knowledge explained

Tacit knowledge is complex knowledge that's tricky to convey or extract. It's therefore more difficult to transfer to others by writing it down or expressing it, even if your communication skills are top notch. It can include aspects such as personal wisdom, insight, intuition, and experience.

To illustrate, knowing that Paris is the capital of France is a piece of explicit knowledge that can be written down, transmitted, and understood by the recipient. But trying to convey how to ride a bike, play a musical instrument, or learn how to speak a language requires a whole host of knowledge that's known explicitly, but is almost impossible to transfer or articulate to other people.

Similar to kinaesthetic learning, where the emphasis is on learning through physical movement and practical activities, tacit knowledge is learned through experience. And, just like the phrase, “it's like riding a bike,” once learned, it's never forgotten - it just can't very easily be recorded and stored.

Can tacit knowledge be shared?

From the explanation, it might seem that the sharing of tacit knowledge is impossible. Not the case! It just takes more time as it's more subtle. One effective way of transferring tacit knowledge is during 1-2-1 mentoring sessions. Interactive and continuous training can really benefit and help with exchanging this type of information.

Five examples of tacit knowledge at work

Listing examples of tacit knowledge in the workplace is problematic, due to its very nature. Often known as “natural talent” or “an art,” as it can't be explained with a process document or during a video session, tacit knowledge evolves over time, along with the practice and experience to nail it.

  • Leadership skills: you accumulate the abilities required to be an outstanding leader, such as team management capabilities, as you climb the career ladder - but these skills can't be easily transmitted to everyone

  • Pitching: when a Sales Executive pinpoints the exact moment to successfully pitch an offer, that gut feeling isn't something that can be documented or taught, it's just instinctive

  • Writing expertise: tips can be imparted to new members of staff about ways in which to improve their writing, but it takes time to master and the only way forward is to develop and improve these skills over time

  • Good sense of humour:  often underrated at work, a cracking sense of humour can dispel difficult situations and help with building positive work relationships, but it's difficult to explain why something is funny as it requires timing, an understanding of the situation, and emotional intelligence

  • Intuition: this is the instinctive ability to understand certain situations without conscious reasoning, like having a “hunch” or a “sixth sense” about something. It's a great tool to have, particularly for entrepreneurs, as it enables them to ascertain the best time to launch a product or take a risk - but it might be a challenge explaining why they've taken that particular route.

Why tacit knowledge is vitally important at work

Possessing comprehensive tacit knowledge can elevate certain individuals in a corporation above their peers, as well as place them at the front of the queue when it comes to new job opportunities. Displaying valuable skills such as leadership, intuition, and interpersonal qualities can showcase your innate ability to match the job description, while saving the company time and money on training.

Tacit knowledge is also useful for businesses aiming to become leaders in their field. If a company has numerous employees with a wide range of tacit knowledge covering a variety of areas, it can trust its pool of talented workers to develop innovative solutions.

An organisation can recognise the tacit knowledge available, and develop appropriate resources to train new members of staff as effectively as possible.

The six other branches of knowledge

Explicit knowledge

Explicit knowledge is any information that can be easily documented and communicated to others, such as rules, facts, and formulas. In a work situation, explicit knowledge is key as it's the main form of knowledge imparted when a new employee joins the ranks.

Explicit knowledge is stored in books, documents, TED Talks, video tutorials, and other forms of written or verbal communication.

Implicit knowledge

Implicit knowledge is inferred or implied, such as beliefs, assumptions, or expectations. It's a more complex concept and is generally gained through real-life experience, but is knowledge that can be captured and transmitted - unlike tacit knowledge.

It's a useful asset to have at work. When welcoming new staff members, the sharing of just explicit information isn't enough. You want them to understand why something works, and let them exploit this information to gain new skills and identify best practice, allowing them to be more productive.

Declarative knowledge

Declarative knowledge, also known as propositional or descriptive knowledge, refers to facts that don't change and are static in nature. It's all about “knowing that… ” as opposed to “knowing how… ” For example, new employees entering the company would be expected to have declarative knowledge on the position they're going to do as well as the culture of the organisation. Those onboarding them would need to assess what declarative knowledge the new hires need to be taught during the onboarding process. Experienced workers and those higher up the ladder would be expected to already have the declarative knowledge required for the role.

Procedural knowledge

The opposite of declarative knowledge, procedural knowledge answers those “how” questions, and includes information on the various ways in which to perform specific tasks. It's gained through experience, so is a form of implicit knowledge. It's knowledge that should be documented, in case of employee turnover.

Channel your Latin knowledge with these last two examples, which are the opposites of each other.

A priori knowledge

Translated as “from the former,” a priori knowledge is knowledge gained independently of any experience or evidence and is a result of abstract or logical reasoning.

A posteriori knowledge

Meaning “from the latter,” this type of knowledge is derived from experience, and can only be logically explained and reasoned once the individual has observed a certain event. It's subjective, as it relies on someone's interpretation of their own observation. However, it can unlock new opportunities for a company, while boosting creativity and innovation.

Applying your extensive tacit knowledge in the workplace can work wonders. If you need to transfer this to the world of seeking out a new job, let the experts help. Check out TopCV's free CV review services for starters and see where it takes you.

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