Getting the best out of tacit knowledge – Part 2 – Focus on the people

In our previous blog Getting the best out of tacit knowledge – Part 1 – Understanding what it is, we took a look at the different forms of information and paid particular attention to how tacit knowledge is derived and what its sources are. Now that we have identified tacit knowledge as being information which is drawn from personal experiences, cultures and biases and thereby affecting us personally we need to look at the practical methods of this within the work place.

Best practices
Firstly a company needs to capture and distribute its vast network of tacit knowledge and enable it to function and flow efficiently. Although this sounds like a technological task, its best execution would be when the focus changes from the 'tools' to the people. Understanding this requirement at the onset would likely make the extraction of tacit knowledge more successful.

Grasping social networking
What company has a social networking policy in place directed at its personnel? Very few. Yes, we see policies in place with regards to the company's social presence but when the focus is to ensure that teams adapt social networking themselves, during the office for personal use as well, we see a few frowns appear. The analogy being that social networking and its success is purely dependent on sharing and the reasons why we share is 100% tacit. So if social networking for personal uses is forbidden in the office, how will ever extract tacit knowledge from our teams and be able to capitalize on this?

In general people don't automatically speak and tell unless asked. In order to achieve this and extract tacit knowledge, businesses need to set up a collaboration platform where this can be achieved. The platform not only needs to be set up from a tacit point of view – as in asking for experience, criticisms, opinions about a product/service, for example, but also give the freedom to add feedback on a personal level. Thereby the content needs to be prepared, filled and inviting, ready for contribution and participation. The social networking aspect must be embraced and allowed. Companies want their teams to be able to share, complain, delight and engage as they do on Facebook profiles without it being compulsory.

Don't document, capture and experience
In a traditional sense knowledge sharing has lead to knowledge management and the need to document and digitize. Tacit knowledge, being an ever evolving process should however not be approached in the same way as this would in fact defeat the object. Let us remember that tacit knowledge is information in our heads, often not conscious and one of which plays an ever present role in our decision making process. Instead we need to recognize that tacit knowledge in the way it is gathered is exactly the same way in how it is transferred. Its documentation is more a question of capturing, experiencing and exchanging and happens continuously without our even knowing. If there is any way of capturing tacit knowledge the way would be by integration of social collaborations tools within companies.

Every day more than 50 million people are sharing their tacit knowledge, sharing and learning via Facebook. The process is natural and efficient and automatically transferred thus stored in our minds. Documentation or the lack of it does not necessarily mean that it isn't shared, but the term knowledge management doesn't apply because tacit knowledge is something which cannot be managed.

Understanding tacit knowledge is to allow the exchange of ideas, opinions, feedback and answers to flow and co-create within a social networking environment – this will be the closest ever possible to documenting it but should be welcomed as an important step in help teams collaborate and businesses grow in value.

Thanks for listening!

Marc & Leonard