Of the four types of organizational knowledge—implicit, explicit, individual, and collective—implicit knowledge is essential to improving business process efficiency, reducing hiring and training costs, and improving employee engagement. Done right, capturing, storing, and sharing implicit knowledge enhances communication and coordination, ensuring everyone is using available resources effectively.
Implicit knowledge is the knowledge gained from applying other learned information, such as how-to guides, tutorials, or manuals. It isn’t as easy to articulate, document, or share as explicit knowledge, but it’s essential to capture, preserve, and share it across your organization so that everyone can benefit from it.
To illustrate the distinction between explicit knowledge vs. implicit knowledge, think of building and riding a bike. The explicit knowledge in the manual tells you how to assemble it; the implicit knowledge is the balancing and other riding skills you accumulate and master over time.
Tacit and implicit knowledge are often used interchangeably. However, depending on how you use them, they can differ. For instance, tacit knowledge is deeply rooted in personal actions and experiences, i.e., things people understand intuitively. Implicit knowledge, on the other hand, is often inferred from context or related information. It might not be immediately apparent, but it’s usually easier to articulate.
Implicit knowledge has unique attributes crucial to knowledge management. Understanding these characteristics can improve effective organizational decision-making and innovation.
By leveraging implicit knowledge, organizations can tap into a reservoir of insights, skills, and understandings that aren’t readily available in manuals or databases. In knowledge management, implicit knowledge plays a crucial role in multiple arenas:
It’s a far more straightforward process for organizations to capture explicit knowledge because it can be easily translated into documents and shared with others. However, gathering and sharing implicit knowledge is much more challenging. Organizations wanting to successfully capture implicit knowledge have many tactics at their disposal.
Many people are hesitant to share their implicit knowledge. Some might think people won’t understand it or it isn’t relevant to their current position. Others feel the more learned wisdom they keep to themselves, the more valuable they are to the organization. Encouraging people to share their implicit can increase productivity and innovation. By cultivating a culture of knowledge-sharing and modeling desired behavior, leadership can successfully tap into their team members’ implicit knowledge.
Recognizing and rewarding those who share their implicit knowledge goes a long way in making people feel valued for their contributions. Knowledge-sharing bonuses and recognition programs compensate team members for their efforts. They can also boost morale, further fostering a knowledge-sharing culture.
Open forums and discussions where team members can discuss knowledge challenges faced, solutions tried, and lessons learned give people a chance to organically share their implicit knowledge. Encourage the sharing of personal stories, which can make the knowledge more relatable and memorable. These regular meetings can also create a sense of camaraderie, leading to increased willingness to share.
Mentoring programs that pair seasoned team members with new hires can facilitate implicit knowledge sharing and make it easier to transfer unspoken insights and experiences. You can also organize training sessions where team members teach each other specific skills or insights they’ve gained.
Implement knowledge sharing software and platforms where team members can engage in discussions, provide insights, and ask questions. These technologies help capture and share knowledge across the organization and with customers. Routine training sessions ensure staff is fully equipped to use various resources.
Many organizations have created internal digital communities where team members can ask questions about anything they want. They act as virtual mentorship programs and serve as essential repositories of collected wisdom. By setting up forums or message boards, you foster collaboration, speed up problem-solving, and strengthen connections.
Promoting transparency increases trust within the organization. It lets everyone know what they need to do and what they should expect from others, reducing stress and eliminating uncertainties. This openness cultivates a more collaborative environment where people are more willing to share. It also encourages candid conversations and fosters a sense of unity and collective responsibility.
Before implementing a knowledge transfer process, create a clear roadmap of what you want to achieve. Define measurable objectives and KPIs that align with your organization’s goals, whether it’s speeding up the onboarding process, enhancing project efficiency, or improving customer satisfaction. Continually monitor these benchmarks to ensure you’re on track and make adjustments based on feedback and results.