Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Knowledge with Shelf-life

Shelf life?
Originally uploaded by Jaako
There is a place in Knowledge Management for explicit knowledge - knowledge which has been documented and stored. That place is where we need to give it some shelf-life.

Explicit knowledge is almost always a second-best to tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge has context, it has depth, it has vibrancy. It lives in practice, and grows with practice. Explicit knowledge can be devoid of context, can be shallow and dead. It can be separated from practice. However it has shelf-life and it has longevity.

Imagine a task where there is a gap in practice - where we do the task once, then several months pass before we do it again. During this time, the human memory starts to leak. It starts to change. It's fallibility becomes apparent, and the three Gorilla Illusions start to work their destructive spell. The tacit knowledge loses its reliability, and quickly the explicit knowledge takes over. Its reliability offsets many of its impediments, and the checklists, the wikis, the knowledge assets become our primary source (or at the very least, back up the tacit knowledge and fill in the gaps)

Our challenge then, as knowledge managers, is to recognise where knowledge must be tacit and where it must be explicit; and where it has to be explicit, we capture it with the maximum of context, the maximum of depth, and the maximum of life.


Anonymous said...

For us, our Wiki environment is fast becoming where we store our explicit knowledge. It's the know-how, know-what, and know-why. With the latter being the most important part of learning. We are finding Wiki to be comfortable for our users and maybe more importantly, it's where we believe it's easier to re-use the knowledge. Explicit knowledge has to evaluated from a process standpoint and you have to accommodate the submission process and the re-use process. Can you get broad-based buy-in and usage with both? That's the key to success at a high-level.

Dan, ConocoPhillips

Nick Milton said...

Exactly, Dan. Well said. The combination you have of well-structured and owned wiki content, with the tacit knowledge of the community, is to my mind the ideal combination.

Suresh Nair said...

I too strongly believe that the explicit knowledge (viz. printed books in a Library or elsewhere) are the evaluated concrete tacit knowledge, which is accepted by experts around and hence, it has a better shelf life - the knowledge in books may not be very current, but can act as a foundation on which people can build upon their knowledge by adding their nascent ideas.

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