Structure, wellspring or content? : a conceptual analysis of the notion of tacit knowledge in knowledge management theory

Maasdorp, Christiaan Hendrik (2004-03)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2004.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The thesis is a conceptual analysis of the concept of tacit knowledge. The analysis consist of comparing the function of the concept of tacit knowledge in a number of selected theories from its origin in the philosophy of Michael Polanyi, through its introduction to organisation theory and its eventual application in knowledge management theory. Inthe work of Michael Polanyi the concept of tacit knowledge functions as the logical structure underlying all forms of knowledge. In terms of Polanyi tacit and explicit knowledge are not two separable phenomena, because all knowledge is rooted in the act of tacit integration. Ikujiro Nonaka adapted Polanyi's epistemology and within his framework the concept of tacit knowledge signifies the unstructured subjective realm that is the wellspring of individual creativity. Nonaka asserts firstly, that the phenomenon of tacit knowledge is a knowledge content that is distinct from explicit knowledge content and secondly, that it is possible to convert the one type of knowledge into the other. Nonaka's model includes a spiral process of interaction in which tacit knowledge is converted into explicit knowledge and back into tacit knowledge again. The last chapter relates the conclusions reached upon the comparison of the function of the concept in the theories of Nonaka and Polanyi, with its reception in knowledge management theory. It is argued that in knowledge management the concept of tacit knowledge denotes knowledge content that cannot be communicated as information. It is also shown how Nonaka' s model was integrated into a sender receiver model of communication, thus incorporating it into the information processing paradigm. It is furthermore conjectured that the concept of tacit knowledge forms part of an attempt to bridge an epistemological gap facing the discourse on organisational knowledge. Lastly, it is concluded that it appears to be impossible to use the concept of tacit knowledge to overcome this epistemological problem, without an ontological shift away from the information processing paradigm.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die tesis is 'n konseptuele analise van die konsep van implisiete ('tacit') kennis. Die analise bestaan uit 'n vergelyking van die funksie van die konsep van implisiete kennis in 'n aantal geselekteerde teorieë, van die oorsprong van die term in die filosofie van Michael Polanyi, deur die aanpassing van die konsep in organisasie teorie, tot die toepassing daarvan in kennisbestuursteorie. In die werk van Polanyi funksioneer die konsep as die logiese struktuur wat die onderbou van alle vorme van kennis is. In terme van Polanyi is implisiete en eksplisiete kennis nie twee aparte fenomene nie, want alle kennis is gewortel in die askie van implisiete integrasie. Ikujiro Nonaka het Polanyi se epistemologie aangepas en binne sy raamwerk funksioneer die begrip as 'n beskrywing van die ongestruktureerde subjektiewe domein wat die bron van individuele kreatiwiteit is. Volgens Nonaka is die fenomeen van implisiete kennis eerstens 'n kennisinhoud wat onderskeibaar is van eksplisiete kennisinhoud, en tweedens dat dit moontlik is om die een soort kennis om te skakel in die ander en omgekeerd. Nonaka se model sluit 'n spiral-proses van interaksie in waarin implisiete kennis omgeskakel word na eksplisiete kennis en weer terug in implisiete kennis. Die laaste hoofstuk belig die ontvangs van die konsep van implisiete kennis in kennisbestuursteorie teen die agtergrond van die vergelyking van die funksionering van die konsep in die teorieë van Polanyi en Nonaka. Daar word geargumenteer dat in kennisbestuursteorie die konsep verwys na kennisinhoud wat nie geredelik omgeskakel kan word na informasie en dus gekommunikeer kan word nie. Daar word getoon hoe Nonaka se model met 'n sender-ontvanger kommunikasie-model geïntegreer word en dus geïnkorporeer word in die informasie prossesseringsparadigma. Verder word gespekuleer dat die konsep gebruik word in 'n poging om 'n epistemologiese gaping in die diskoers rondom organisatoriese kennis te oorbrug. Laastens is die slotsom dat dit blyk onmoontlik te wees om die konsep van implisiete kennis te gebruik om die epistemologiese probleem op te los, sonder 'n fundamentele ontologiese skuif weg vanaf die informasie prossesseringsparadigma.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/50109
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