capturing tacit knowledgeOver the last week there have been messages going back and forth between the members of the Federal Knowledge Management Working Group  about the ability and validity of being able to capture tacit knowledge and transitioning it to explicit knowledge.

The conversation was initiated by Neil Olonoff, Lead Federal Knowledge Management Initiative, Federal KM Working Group. There were many views and opinions voiced on this subject. Some points stand out such as, it is difficult and considered unrealistic to think that you can fully transfer tacit knowledge in its entirety into explicit knowledge, instituting a mentor/protege (apprenticeship) program to transfer tacit knowledge is an optimal way to transition tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge, and are there methods (tools) that can really convert tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge effectively and efficiently.

It has been my experience that you can capture specific kinds of tacit knowledge (declarative, procedural, rules based) very effectively, and translate it into explicit knowledge and make it available across the enterprise. This knowledge becomes among other things “tips and techniques”, “standard operating procedures”, and “lessons learned”. There are also methods to codify tacit knowledge and that knowledge can be utilized in an expert (knowledge-based) system see UML for Developing Knowledge Management Systems.

Tacit knowledge has been translated into explicit knowledge throughout history, from the ancient Egyptian carvings through storytelling, through the semantic web. Phil Murray, Chief Architect from The Semantic Advantage has an interesting article in KM World: Putting Meaning to Work, that talks about the connectedness we share through semantic networks.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Sharing our knowledge both tacit and explicit is the cornerstone to the success of any knowledge management program!

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