Before we start discussing the challenges faced in codifying tacit knowledge, let us revisit and understand what tacit knowledge is. Tacit knowledge is the knowledge that is difficult to transfer from one person to another through written or verbal mode. It’s the information that, if asked, would be difficult to write down (document), articulate (convey), or present (visual transmission) in a tangible form—for example, swimming.
One might know how to swim, but an individual might struggle if asked to describe the process. Swimming is far more than just swinging your arms and legs to stay afloat.
To be treated as an economic good, knowledge must be put in a form that allows it to circulate and be exchanged. This transformation of knowledge into information is referred to as codification.
What Makes the Codification of Tacit Knowledge A Complex Process?
While acquiring tacit knowledge, one can use training, practice, or socialising methods. The metrics used for knowledge management and codification can help us understand why KM codification is complex. The matrix is divided into two known and unknown matrices. Each of these matrices can further help us understand why codification is a complex process.
A1. Know that we know
It is essential to understand what we know. It is difficult to codify without knowing that one knows about the subject since the knowledge is tacit and cannot be codified unless discussed/shared
A2. Know that we do not know
Knowing that one does not have knowledge about a particular subject matter is important. Spending a lot of time on resources that do not have tacit knowledge can lead to wasting of critical time and resources.
B1. Don’t know that we know
Individuals might have developed a skillset and have the knowledge; however, a particular topic/subject may never come for the discussion and documentation phase. This will lead to a loss of knowledge. Therefore, not knowing what a particular subject-matter expert or we know is a big challenge in codification, making it a complex process.
B2. Don’t know that we don’t know
Like above, not knowing what an individual or group does not know in an organisation can make the process complex.
Codification of tacit knowledge at an individual or group level can be done using three major approaches. However, these approaches bring their challenges making the codification process complicated. Let us understand these three approaches and their associated complexities.
- Interview an expert: An expert will have knowledge that s/he has gained during years of working and experience gained. When one wants to codify this tacit knowledge via interviewing, it is easy to lose critical information because the questions are not thorough enough. This makes codification more complicated. This means people involved in codification should be as good as individuals or groups possessing tacit knowledge. Therefore, increasing the complexity.
- Learn by doing: One can engage in doing a particular activity and codifying it as the action progresses. However, this is a time-consuming process and may lead to data loss. Moreover, doing is not equal to doing it efficiently and accurately, which makes the codification of tacit knowledge complex.
- Learn by observation: This is also a great option to codify tacit knowledge. However, it comes with challenges that make the process complicated. For example, work environment, work location, health hazards, expertise in the topic, availability of tools, budget constraints, etc., make the codification of tacit knowledge complex using this approach.
In this essay, we discussed why the codification of tacit knowledge is a complex process and what contributes to making that process complex.
What is Tacit Knowledge? Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMEcHXEgaYw, accessed on 27 Dec 2022
Kimble, C. (2013). Knowledge management, codification and tacit knowledge Information Research, 18(2) paper 1
Knowledge capture and codification. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OLkFPdUKnM, accessed on 27 Dec 2022