Tacit knowledge vs explicit knowledge

July 24, 2021
How much of what you do on a daily basis would you struggle to explain to someone as step-by-step instructions?

I just finished reading The Knowledge-Creating Company, which discusses two types of knowledge: Explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge.

As an over-simplification, explicit knowledge is things that can be explained explicitly. How to bake a cake, for example.

Tacit knowledge is things that are known, but difficult or impossible to explain, and you may not even know you know them. Riding a bicycle can be an example.

I see this model as related to (though still clearly distinct from) the concept of hard skills vs soft skills. Most of the English-speaking world focuses mostly on “hard skills” or “explicit knowledge.” How to build a linked list. How to bubble sort. How to install Kubernetes.

But the tacit skills are just as important. How to debug a failing service. How to design an intuitive architecture. How to prioritize tasks with no direct business outcome.

How much of what you do on a daily basis is based in tacit knowledge? In other words: How much of what you do on a daily basis would you struggle to explain to someone as step-by-step instructions?

Related Content

Software development is so much more than writing code

Most education focuses on how to code, but this is only a small part of becoming a productive software developer.

I know I'm wrong

I just don't know what I'm wrong about. Obviously.

Learning tacit knowledge is hard

You might hire a golf coach who watches you to discover your "bad habits", then convert them into explicit knowledge so they can be corrected. It's no different in business.