The dynamics of tacit learning in organisations : a system view

Powell, John
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Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University
A decade of scholarly and practitioner work in knowledge management has shown that the tacit dimension of knowing is critically important. It is important, firstly, because tacit knowledge demonstrably exists – ignoring it would create a fatal gap in the management of the resources of the organisation. Secondly, tacit knowledge possesses interesting and useful strategic properties; because it is less accessible to persons outside the organisation it is more difficult to detach the tacit knowledge from its owner(s). There are well-known frameworks for explaining the behaviour of tacit and explicit knowledge but they possess one major and one minor gap. The less significant lacuna is the general absence of consideration of that component of knowing which is not merely inexpressible (thus tacit), but is unknown, i.e. the knower is unaware of her/his knowing. More significantly, work deriving from intelligence systems stresses the importance of that knowing which is of a systemic nature, as opposed to knowing of a localised, or ‘point’, nature. An extensive body of work now exists which takes this system view of knowledge into account, but little exists in terms of frameworks for understanding how this systemic knowledge behaves dynamically. Some practical experiences are described in the form of mini-cases, which collectively give indications of the conditions under which tacit knowledge (of both forms) is likely to be co-created in the organisation. These are brought together in an informal structure for guiding managers in creating the conditions for that co-creation.
Tacit learning, Organizational learning, Knowledge management