Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Tacit Knowledge - how to use it?

My mentor Ken and I have been exchanging email thoughts about TACIT KNOWLEDGE. We'd love to hear your ideas about how tacit knowledge can be effectively captured and used.

My understanding of tacit knowledge is knowledge that is difficult to write down or express. It’s kind of intangible and difficult to pass on because it’s so difficult to ‘get hold of.’ I suppose an example might be how some people can play the piano by ear rather than by learning from formal piano lessons. Another example might be a footballer (George Best, Pele or Maradona as examples) who does things that can’t be taught on the training pitch and are not learned through coaching. It’s just part of the person – it therefore makes it virtually impossible to pass on or teach.I love the idea that if we could understand it more and ‘bottle it’ we could use it as a force for good. So ..... Simplicity Blog reader ...... What’s your take on it?


Anonymous said...

Take a look at Malcolm Gladwell's book, Outliers.

Trevor Gay said...

I have read Outliers - I thought Gladwell was arguing that hard work and practice (10,000 hour rule) means we achieve which I don't disagree with - as Gary Player once said "The more I practice the luckier I get"

I'm still struggling to understand how we can capture tacit knowledge and use it as a training tool

J.KANNAN said...

"Tacit Knowledge" can not be captured but to be grasped(This is according to my opinion) and it calls for greater amount of careful observation and focussed concentration.

Yes you are right it can not be written down or expressed but has to be observed as already mentioned. The basic quality one needs to grasp "Tacit Knowledge" is
"BE A GOOD LISTNER & OBSERVER." and use it judiciously with good listeners/observers for The best of benefit.


Trevor Gay said...

JK - Is it something intrinsic in an individual or can anyone learn it?

J.KANNAN said...

I don't think its some thing intrisic. Learing and using "Tacit Knowledge" is a tactic.Its neither intrinsic nor inherent in any one but an art of listening and observing tactfully by one's own initiative.


Trevor Gay said...

As one of my former bosses (a good one)asked me regularly:

"Have you given your staff a good listening to lately?"

J.KANNAN said...


It reminds me of a good old saying to save every one.

"Be a good listener. Your ears will never get you in trouble."


Mark JF said...

Try this:

I think the point about tacit knowledge is that it's the sort of stuff that can only be captured and used by people who are curious and who want to learn it.

hucknjim said...

Interesting discussion. To put it in somewhat more concrete terms, a good friend sometimes calls me after a day of dealing with difficult people at work to vent and to ask my opinion. After talking for a while, he's said "How do you know this stuff?" The best I've been able to come up with is that I'd rather listen than talk and that I love to watch people. I think that the combination of the two is what leads to the "tacit knowledge", a term I'd never heard before, I seem to have about people.
As to whether it can be taught, people can be taught to listen. They can also be taught to observe. But can they be taught to combine what they've heard with what they've observed to gain a deeper understanding? Of that I'm not so sure. To me, making those connections is at the core of tacit knowledge. I really don't know how I do it. It just comes to me. None of this is meant to brag. It's just a talent I seem to have.


Trevor Gay said...

Thanks for the link to Wiki Mark - duhhh!! ...never thought of that!

Richard Lipscombe said...

Hi Trevor

This is one of my pet subjects. Best, Pele, Player, Woods, etc all displayed excellent levels of tacit knowledge. All were also taught/coached/mentored to help them improve what they knew.

Here is my simple attempt to help people improve their tacit knowledge about their fear of success. Hope you enjoy it.

"We all know, from experience, the fear of failure.

What about the other fear. What do we know of it? How do we recognise it? What can we do about it when it strikes us?

The fear of success is real but perhaps not as openly acknowledged as our grounded fear of failure. The first step towards overcoming this fear is to recognise it and acknowledge it. The next step is to proceed despite it. The third step is to let the energy of this fear propel you towards your success. The fourth step is to ensure that the success you seek is what you want. The fifth step is to recognise the emerging fear of failure that accompanies you as you close in on your successes."

Trevor Gay said...

Excellent - thanks Richard

I imagine many people don’t have enough belief in their own brilliant ability – I have come across so many people with immense talent but they are humble about their gift. I am so envious of their talents! Your words reminded me of one of my favourite quotes - these famous words are often credited to Nelson Mandela but were in fact written by Marianne Williamson in her book “A Return to Love”

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone, and as we let our own light shine we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others”

…. Wonderful!

Anonymous said...