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Tacit Knowledge Question

Management Notes > Decision Making in Organisations Notes

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Tacit Knowledge
Introduction/Set Context
The concept knowledge has been in existence long before the discussion of knowledge and knowledge sharing in organisations.
As such, it is important to first understand the definition of knowledge before it is possible to place this into an organisational context. Epistemology, "is the philosophical investigation of human knowledge" (O'Leary, 2013) and the literature on knowledge and organisations draws heavily upon this. This essay will explore the type of knowledge termed tacit knowledge and its evolution within the field of knowledge, and specifically within management literature which places it in an organisational context.

Answer Question
It was the influence of the resource based view (Wernerfelt, 1984), which was used as a basis to determine the competitive advantage of a firm based on its tangible and intangible assets, which led to researchers and academics attempting to classify types of knowledge. The resource based view fits with the concept of knowledge being either tacit or explicit, as tacit knowledge is mainly intangible, whilst explicit knowledge which is usually presented in the form of documents is very much a tangible asset for a firm.
The discussion around the tacit nature of certain knowledge resides in the epistemological dimension of knowledge rather than the ontological dimension as it is "concerned with how we know what we do" (Audi, 1998, p.2) rather than what is known.
Polanyi (1962) first coined the notion of tacit knowledge, which is inherently difficult to formalise and communicate to others.
Tacit knowledge is the subjective know how and insights that individuals accumulate after having worked on something for an extended period. In contrast explicit knowledge is easy to communicate and is often codified in documents, or presents itself in the form of procedures and rules.
Tacit knowledge has been a complex concept for many to grasp an understanding of because by its very nature it is the aim of a skilful performance is achieved by the observance of a set of rules which are not known as such to the person following them"
(Polanyi, 2002, P.49). Polanyi advocates that the only way others can learn these skills is through observation, such as in the form of an apprenticeship; "by watching the master and emulating his efforts in the presence of his example, the apprentice unconsciously picks up the rules of the art" (Polanyi, 1958, p.53).
Nonaka & Takeuchi's theoretical framework and ongoing research around types of knowledge is arguably more renowned than
Polanyi's, especially as they were the first to propose that the key to the creation of new ideas and concepts lies in "the continual dialogue between explicit and tacit knowledge" (Nonaka, 1994, p.15). The spiral model coined by Nonaka in 1998 is known as the SECI model and identifies four different patterns of conversion between tacit and explicit knowledge.
The first step on the spiral model is socialisation where the knowledge transfer is tacit to tacit and occurs through interactions between individuals, Nonaka claims this is often through observation and practice and is transferred from someone who holds the knowledge to someone who wishes to hold the knowledge through working together in the same environment. The second stage of the spiral model is that of externalisation which is the transfer of tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge often through dialogue or through books and manuals. Thirdly, the combination stage is the transfer of explicit to explicit knowledge and occurs through meetings, conversations and sharing of documents to combine knowledge to create new knowledge. Finally, the last step of the spiral model is that of internalisation which is the transfer of explicit to tacit knowledge where a hands on

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