Edited by David Rooney, Greg Hearn and Abraham Ninan
Chapter 15: ‘Tacit Knowledge’ Versus ‘Explicit Knowledge’ Approaches to Knowledge Management Practice
Ron Sanchez Introduction Managers concerned with implementing knowledge management in their organizations today face a number of challenges in developing sound methods for this still emerging area of management practice (Sanchez 2001). Both the growing literature on knowledge management and the advice offered by various knowledge management consultants, however, seem to advocate forms of knowledge management practice that often appear incomplete, inconsistent and even contradictory. This chapter suggests that the current lack of coherence in the diverse recommendations for knowledge management practice results from the fact that the development of both theory and practice in this emerging field is being driven by two fundamentally different approaches to identifying and managing knowledge in organizations. These two approaches are characterized here as the ‘tacit knowledge’ approach and the ‘explicit knowledge’ approach. This chapter first clarifies how these two fundamental approaches differ in both their philosophical premises and derived recommendations for practice, and it summarizes the main strengths and weaknesses of each of the two approaches in practice. We then suggest that sound knowledge management practice requires a creative synthesis of the two approaches that enables the strengths of one approach to offset the inherent limitations of the other approach, and vice versa. Tacit knowledge versus explicit knowledge approaches Even a casual review of the many articles and consulting recommendations on knowledge management practice today soon reveals a plethora of recommended processes and techniques. Unfortunately – especially for the many managers looking to researchers and consultants for insights to guide development of sound knowledge...
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