Explicit Knowledge: Definition & In-Depth Explanation

Are you planning to implement the knowledge management strategy in your business?

But confused about where to start from?

Generally, there exist different types of knowledge like explicit, implicit, and tacit that you need to have expertise on.

What are these three essential terminologies?

This article will cover the complete details about explicit knowledge, the common difference between implicit and explicit knowledge, and discuss how effectively you can capture, store, and transfer with each other within the organization.

“All knowledge that the world has ever received comes from the mind; the infinite library of the universe is in our own mind. Books are infinite in number and time is short. The secret of knowledge is to take what is essential. Take that and try to live up to it.”- Swami Vivekananda


What is Explicit Knowledge?

Knowledge usually has different forms, depending on the business type. The knowledge that can be easily articulated, codified, stored, and accessed is Explicit Knowledge. It is also known as expressive knowledge.

Such knowledge can be smoothly transmitted to other customers or employees and stored efficiently in certain media. For example, explicit knowledge is tangible, robust, and recorded in multiple types like documents and databases.

Consider the market research report scenario. It includes essential information like recent trends, project definitions, essential documents, customer roles & behaviours, analytic reports, and additional analysis and research reports.

What benefits the organization grabs by capturing and transferring explicit knowledge?

  • Enhances decision-making capabilities
  • Minimizing the duplication efforts
  • Security against knowledge loss
  • Creating robust processes and operations

Examples of Explicit Knowledge

This type of knowledge exists in our real-life scenario as it comes in encyclopedias and textbooks. Such knowledge comes in various types like procedure manuals, documents, contents, procedures, audio-visuals, how-to videos, and other things that make impressive KMS.

Engineering works and product design are examples of such knowledge that works explicitly based on human skills, customers’ motivations, and external expertise. Some of the best instances are as below:

  • A sales team with a knowledge-sharing platform.
  • A formal customer suggestions and complaints
  • Documented context work
  • Application or project definitions
  • Content creation policy
  • Job operating process
  • Database of potential customer contact
  • Code of conducts for the organization

Opposite of Explicit Knowledge

Tacit knowledge works precisely opposite to explicit. The knowledge that humans use like personal experience and jobs is implicit.

Know-how and learning usually come from people’s minds—intelligence and experience, more challenging to extract and codify.

‘Tacit and implicit knowledge’ are the same words used by the organization. “Implicit” is a type of knowledge that is usually implied in a statement but is not explicitly said. The term could refer to ideas that are connected with it in socially understandable manners.

Implicit knowledge has more complexities in transferring information in a written format like documents or through verbal methods. 

For example, in Canada, Toronto is a piece of explicit knowledge as it can be easily written down and understood by a reader. In contrast, riding a bicycle, playing a musical instrument, walking, speaking ability, and others that do not require any specific documentation is implicit knowledge.


Difference Between Explicit and Implicit Knowledge

Explicit KnowledgeImplicit Knowledge
  • Easy to articulating, writing, and sharing
  • Application of explicit knowledge
  • knowing-how
  • knowing-that
  • Best example: knowledge management platform
  • Best example: individuals following best practices and skills that are job transferable
  • Externalized
  • Internalized
  • Context independent
  • Dynamically created
  • Explicit – Easy to write down or capture
  • Implicit – Difficult to teach and to capture

In simple words, we can say that tacit knowledge is explicit knowledge that has not been documented.

For codification purposes, explicit can be easily codified, just like writing code or performing word expressions. At the same time, implicit is not easy to understand, so there exists no chance to communicate, interpret, or use such information.

Such information is easily transferable as one needs to know a particular topic to transfer the information. On the other hand, tacit knowledge does not support knowledge-sharing. It cannot be transferred from one person to another irrespective of the specific knowledge that exists in the organization.

How does the transfer effectively take place to gain a competitive advantage?

  • Face-to-face customer interactions
  • Apprenticeship
  • Mutual trust between the two

Moreover, using logical deduction and practical experience, the company can quickly gain explicit knowledge. In implicit, an individual must have an expert company knowledge of a specific area and is acquired using in-depth analysis, research, and user experience.

The company can smoothly record such information and store it in physical formats like books, manuals, pdf, files, and other readable formats. The tacit knowledge is fast and presumed. It is usually separated, whose collection process is quite complicated. So, perfect participation and cooperation are a must need for enhancing business performance.

When you are trying to compare tacit and explicit knowledge, first of all, you need to understand how these two types of knowledge take advantage of each other.

Explicit Knowledge vs Implicit Knowledge

To implement this, new knowledge typically starts on a personal basis. An intuitive sense of market trends usually helps the manager to create valuable new products.

  • Tacit-to-Tacit: A form of knowledge sharing involves transferring Tacit Knowledge to an individual or group that retains it as Tacit.

    When knowledge communities meet and the common interests get together, they informally exchange a lot of information quickly.

    E.g., Telephonic conversation, public meetings, group discussions, opinion polls, etc.

  • Tacit-to-Explicit: When an individual converts Tacit-to-Explicit, it is referred to as  ‘Externalization.’ In simple words, it means that it makes internal & implicit knowledge, external & explicit.

    Such conversion is possible just by formally codifying and expressing such knowledge in terminologies associated with Explicit.

    E.g.: Annual reports, rating & reviews, technical reviews, journals, and articles.

  • Explicit-to-Tacit:  It is also known by the name “internalization” and takes place through learning and training. Explicitly creates a new Tacit Knowledge.

    E.g., Reading articles, watching television, learning through textbooks, etc.

  • Explicit-to-Explicit: The process of creating new knowledge from the existing one is Explicit-to-Explicit. It usually works by integrating the information using statistical techniques and pattern detection.

    Competent information that resides in media such as meetings, telephonic conversations, and networks is combined and exchanged through this process.

    E.g., Digitized forms of documents and textbooks, software applications and tools, etc.

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FAQs

Generally, there are four knowledge types, according to Krathwohl. They are:

  • Factual: It allows exposure, repetition, and commitment to memory for the organizations.
  • Conceptual: It deals with the facts that can be organized in a meaningful manner for your business growth.
  • Procedural: It follows the basic principle of subject-specific skills, techniques, and methods to implement the knowledge.
  • Metacognitive: It deals explicitly with strategic knowledge, contextual knowledge, and even self-knowledge.
A knowledge specifically gained through incidental tasks and activities can implicitly say without any awareness related to learning. Some of the common examples include how to run, swim, and talk. In simple words, the information that is quite difficult for an individual to express in terms of writing and, as such, resides in a human’s mind.

There is a long list of examples of how you can express tacit knowledge. Some of the best one are:

  • Facial recognition
  • Notion of language
  • Content
  • Document flow
  • Bessemer steel process

Usually, there are three most common ways that organizations use such knowledge to transfer and retain. They are:

    • Documentation
    • Interviews
    • Debriefings

Each section includes detailed implications for action when applying these solutions for knowledge transfer and retention and make reliable use of the knowledge management system.


Conclusion

So, we have highlighted all the essential points related to explicit knowledge.

Using knowledge management strategy in your business, the documentation and optimization of your company’s explicit knowledge are challenging. But if applied correctly, the company grabs the opportunity to harness the full wisdom and enhance business growth.

However, we come across a distinction that exists between tacit and explicit knowledge in a real-time scenario.

If you have any queries or comments related to these concepts, you can share your valuable feedback or contact us directly. Our team will revert you as soon as possible.

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