Tribal Knowledge: Definition & How to Capture It

What happens when an experienced employee possessing knowledge about an organization suddenly resigns from the job?

Such information or type of knowledge knowledge is Tribal Knowledge, and many organizations are still unaware of it. Are you also surprised? Right?

The complete and relevant information available with the individual will be lost and eventually, it’s not documented. Apart from this, there exist several problems with such tribal knowledge that we will discuss later in this blog.

What is Tribal Knowledge?

The term “Tribal Knowledge” typically refers to anonymous information or knowledge completely unaware by other employees working in the organization. Such information normally resides in the mind of specific individuals. According to Wikipedia, it is the sum of all the knowledge and capabilities of all employees working in the company.

The information is nothing but a part of Intellectual Property (IP), and it applies to people, products, and processes. Such information defines a critical section of business value in the marketplace and is an essential intangible asset.

Does Tribal Knowledge have any relation with Tacit Knowledge?

Yes. The stored knowledge usually resides in the employee’s mind which is received from the ‘tribe’ from its employees or others.

The tribal knowledge is shared or transferred informally. Every team member of the organization discusses the problem-solving capabilities with other knowledge workers to help future purposes.

An essential way to share tribal knowledge is to bring people together to capture, and knowledge storage becomes a mandate for future use. This enhances the business economies and minimizes errors in knowledge transfer and knowledge loss.

How does the organization benefit from using Tribal Knowledge?

  • Boost the team’s productivity
  • Using intangible assets for enhancing the competitive edge
  • Focuses on explicit knowledge to benefit everyone in the organization
  • Knowledge sharing is a must for significant customer experience and improvement factors

The Tribal Knowledge Problem

Usually, wisdom of the organization has different departments working on a diverse and specific task. As the years go on, the companies develop an over-reliance on employees. The experienced employees create their ideas and innovations on their knowledge, thereby enhancing insights into multiple working operations.

About 70% of company knowledge goes off when an employee leaves or retires from the job, affecting its culture and workflow.

One of the essential assets for any organization is having and maintaining tribal knowledge. It can be specified in many possible ways, depending on the organization’s implementation. Moreover, the organization needs knowledgeable employees who can better handle the situation and perform their jobs efficiently.

Tribal Knowledge Problem

But the main complexity arises when such knowledge manufacturing employees leave the organization. Let us now highlight some of the significant problems that tribal knowledge creates for organizations.

  1. Once the Employee Leaves, Organization Loses Tribal Knowledge

    There exists an increasing number of tribal knowledge when expert professionals give new employees informal training. But there are more chances for sharing incorrect knowledge and techniques if the co-worker’s knowledge during the on-the-job-training session.

    As per the recent research in America, most Americans turn 65 and retire. Once they retire, they carry all the information that is tribal knowledge along with them. Even though they are a precious part of the enterprise, many organizations do not respect them once they leave the organization.

    Lastly, once the skilled employees are no longer available in the organization, the gap in Tribal Knowledge effectively brings a substantial impact on product, service, and quality to a great extent.

  2. More Chances of Incorrect Tribal Knowledge

    Consider the scenario that when highly skilled employees give new employees incorrect training. However, if such employees start working on software or equipment without professional training, it will harm your business growth.

    Any manufacturing industry requires veteran setup, and subsequently, the job operators deal with basic knowledge of job functions. In addition to it, the machinery set up is dependent on past experiences of on-the-job training defined explicitly for other setup operators.

    Proper and adequate documentation is a must for such machinery setup that includes relevant information about the machine, thereby bringing ease for users or customers. If there is a single inconsistency or lacking knowledge gap in the structure, it makes it quite complex to enhance the business productivity on a large scale.

  3. Tribal Knowledge Tries to Defend Avoidance of Automation

    Nowadays, many organizations are still using a manual process and not adopting the automation work process improvement. However, it ultimately depends on the company to fetch tribal knowledge as much as possible.

    Quality and processing speed is the mandate thing that every business opt for. But what happens if the management of the company is not taking proper care of it? It’s going to affect both these test factors and increases the problem of tribal knowledge.

  4. Employee’s Information Hoarding for Job Security

    Employees in the organization tend to secure their job intentionally or unintentionally. It is possible only when such employees possess strong skills to manage specific activities and perform multiple jobs in order to resolve problems.

    Moreover, employees keep themselves in the position of having skills to solve certain complexities that no one can perform. They have the potential to become vital to the company by providing tribal knowledge to secure their job.

    One of the major factors that businesses are not aware of is the extension of tribal knowledge, and it leads to giving rise to the potential risk of overall operations.

How to Capture Tribal Knowledge?

Tribal knowledge is not something like you can use your hand and take it from other’s minds.

The company typically follows an employee training plan to describe and explain the core functions and working environment. In addition to it, the company does possess a manual explaining the policies regarding the industry.

But what will you do to grab the information that resides in someone’s mind? What situation arises when suddenly such information disappears? There are many other perspectives through which you can capture that particular knowledge.

Capturing Tribal Knowledge

  1. Define Impressive Knowledge Management Strategy

    For any organization, designing and implementing a perfect knowledge management strategy is the primary factor in capturing tribal knowledge. Moreover, a robust knowledge-sharing environment develops to enhance employee productivity on a large scale.

    What benefits do the companies fetch from it?

    • Responsive Customer Experience
    • Single Source of Information
    • A Community of Practice (CoP)

    However, a few essential vital points need to be considered when implementing the KM strategy.

    • Accurate Allocation for Resources
    • Aligning Top-Down Approach for Business Process
    • Consideration of Communication Patterns for Workforce
  2. Recognize the Perfect Employees Possessing Tribal Knowledge

    The most challenging task for any company is to search for employees who possess strong tribal knowledge because he is the only responsible person in the team that can work on expertise matters with ease.

    They are solely responsible for handling all sorts of queries and complexities related to services and products, as no one in the corporate area has the skills to perform. The companies provide them with the lead role to enhance the KM efforts and document the knowledge-based information.

    Initially, employees require a powerful motivation for such a knowledge-sharing perspective and create compelling user guides.

    For this particular reason, such knowledgeable employees are an essential asset for your business and capturing the amount of knowledge should be on top-most priority.

  3. Make Selection of Best Software Tools

    The first step that every business must adopt is the KM strategy and work out on its implementation core plan operation. Moreover, the identification of the perfect technology is the primary responsibility of the company’s team members.

    The correct implementation of the KM strategy results in an appropriate selection of the knowledge management software for enhancing business performance. Nowadays, the company owners are adopting CloudTutorial tool for improvising the business processes using the knowledge sharing ability for their customers.

    CloudTutorial is the best example of a knowledge base software that helps the generation of the people and business classes to deal with sharing and updating knowledge for better responsive results. The platform provides a feature-rich set of documentation that helps the customers or users grab the full-portion of informative knowledge using functionalities.

  4. Check the Availability of Tribal Knowledge

    Employees have strong skills to deal with any specific product or service and can easily manage the complete work order related to it carrying tribal knowledge. So, the most demanding thing that a particular industry needs to overcome is identifying such info and preparing well-defined user manuals.

    Once the expert professionals are ready with the documentation process, identifying essential assets needs to recover a tribal knowledge issue.

    A piece of accurate knowledge is identified only when you can find what you know and what you do not know – Confucius, Chinese Philosopher.

    There should be a proper audit for every knowledge info that quickly identifies the person or industry’s knowledge.

    Finally, on the audit completion, insurance needs to be taken to know the department where the industry is lacking the knowledge. If the data is available, an appropriate sum of resources for the learning initiatives must be considered.

  5. Prepare Documentation for Better Understanding

    Without documentation, the new employees cannot understand the working know-how procedures of the formal processes. The primary intent of documenting is to make info related to business processes more explicit and quickly sharable among each other.

    Remember that the documentation must be created regularly for keeping consistency in work processes. The company’s team workers utilize the Knowledge Center Service method to grab continuous improvement factors and enhance employee productivity and performance.

    If the content is not defined precisely, then there is no possible solution to deliver the appropriate training to the new employees. So, the company should adopt the process to create a specific manual for such a function faster.

  6. Reduce the Knowledge Gap

    The essential part that the corporate world needs to adopt is to minimize or remove the gap that usually occurs in the employee’s mind. Moreover, it brings a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding between the experienced candidate and the new candidate, thereby affects the performance criteria on a large scale.

  7. Providing Skilled Training to New Employees

    Training is the biggest factor that helps individuals to grab understanding within a company. However, tacit knowledge typically deals with an experimental analysis and becomes more addictive towards knowledge sharing and management process.

    Employees can quickly gather the relevant info of expert professionals using the training materials. Other forms of training include workshops, online courses, a live example, conferences, and general meetups that allow new individuals to understand a concept.

These innovative methods to capture the knowledge and apply to the corporate world are quite a difficult task. But if used correctly, new individuals can quickly determine the difference in learning such content with ease.

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Bad is not the correct term to use. Tribal Knowledge is explicitly essential info that your colleague or friend carries in their mind. Just you need to be careful to handle such employee’s knowledge.

A tribal means relating to a strong sense of know-how working approach for one own tribe, party, or group. In other words, tribal easily categorize into some sections like:

  • Groups of People
  • Art and Music
  • Colleges and Universities

Employee knowledge is acquired using their personal experience and cannot be shared easily. It completely depends on the company to fetch such info from them. Some of them are mentioned below:

  • Defining a well-defined documentation,
  • Creating a Knowledge Sharing Environment,
  • Develop robust motivation specifically on work quality,
  • Organizing meetings and sharing info using Google docs,

Knowledge is a crucial element for any person. Different types of people possess additional knowledge as per their mind’s ability, and it’s quite difficult for companies to capture knowledge. Usually, there exist some essential methodologies to capture such info, and some of them are as follows:

  • Developing a Working Culture
  • Implementing Knowledge Management Strategy
  • Developing Knowledge Transfer Policy for Future Perspective
  • Make Use of a Knowledge Management System
The tribal knowledge in any company is any unwritten information that is not known by the members in the company. This type of term is mainly used while referring to information that needs to be known by other members in the company in order to produce quality service and products.


So, it’s quite complicated and a waste of time to fetch the tribal knowledge unless the company applies appropriate processes to deal with it.

To overcome problems that arise due to tribal knowledge, the company should adopt a specific way to enhance business growth and provide explicit knowledge. Capturing knowledge is another constraint that needs to be taken into consideration when tribal knowledge comes into action. Want to get such informative blog posts directly into your inbox? Subscribe to our newsletter now.

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