According to Wickramasinghe et. al (2009) it is well established that both tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge are important. First I would like to define both kinds of knowledge and describe how each is used in an organization as extracted from the table by Smith (2001).

Explicit knowledge is academic knowledge or ‘‘know-what’’ that is described in formal language, print or electronic media, often based on established work processes, use people-to-documents approach.

Work process – organized tasks, routine, orchestrated, assumes a predictable environment, linear, reuse codified knowledge, create knowledge objects

Learn – on the job, trial-and-error, self-directed in areas of greatest expertise, meet work goals and objectives set by organization

Teach – trainer designed using syllabus, uses formats selected by organization, based on goals and needs of the organization, may be outsourced

Type of thinking – logical, based on facts, use proven methods, primarily convergent thinking

Share knowledge – extract knowledge from person, code, store and reuse as needed for customers, e-mail, electronic discussions, forums

Motivation – often based on need to perform to meet specific goals

Reward – tied to business goals, competitive within workplace, compete for scarce rewards, may not be rewarded for information sharing

Relationships – may be top-down from supervisor to subordinate or team leader to team members

Technology – related to job, based on availability and cost, invest heavily in IT to develop professional library with hierarchy of databases using existing knowledge

Evaluation – based on tangible work accomplishments, not necessarily on creativity and knowledge sharing


Tacit knowledge is practical, action-oriented knowledge or “know-how’’ based on practice, acquired by personal experience, seldom expressed openly, often resembles intuition

Work practice – spontaneous, improvised, web-like, responds to a changing, unpredictable environment, channels individual expertise, creates knowledge

Learn – supervisor or team leader facilitates and reinforces openness and trust to increase sharing of knowledge and business judgment

Teach – one-on-one, mentor, internships, coach, on-the-job training, apprenticeships, competency based, brainstorm, people to people

Type of thinking – creative, flexible, unchartered, leads to divergent thinking, develop insights

Share knowledge – altruistic sharing, networking, face-to-face contact, videoconferencing, chatting, storytelling, personalize knowledge

Motivation – inspire through leadership, vision and frequent personal contact with employees

Reward – incorporate intrinsic or non-monetary motivators and rewards for sharing information directly, recognize creativity and innovation

Relationships – open, friendly, unstructured, based on open, spontaneous sharing of knowledge

Technology – tool to select personalized information, facilitate conversations, exchange tacit knowledge, invest moderately in the framework of IT, enable people to find one another

Evaluation – based on demonstrated performance, ongoing, spontaneous evaluation

Which one is more important for healthcare and why?

After careful consideration, based on the above description of explicit and tacit knowledge, I think Explicit knowledge is more important than Tacit knowledge for healthcare. The reasons are as follows:-

Comparing the work process/practice and the type of thinking of both types of knowledge, it shows that a healthcare organization should not depend mostly on tacit knowledge. Tried, tested and documented procedures should be used when dealing with human lives. Moreover, a healthcare organization’s goal should be to translate as much tacit knowledge as possible into proven, tested and documented explicit knowledge.

What challenges arise in trying to capture tacit knowledge?

Challenges in capturing tacit knowledge arise primarily in assuring adequate articulation, evaluation, application, and protection of knowledge assets.  Individuals may not have sufficient skill or motivation to articulate their useful knowledge. Individuals vary greatly in the precision with which they can state their ideas, and some individuals may need organizational support to adequately articulate their knowledge into useful knowledge assets. Providing organizational support to individuals to articulate their knowledge may have a significant financial cost and inevitably takes time.

An even more fundamental challenge arises when an individual is capable of articulating his or her knowledge, but resists requests by the organization to do so. At the heart of such resistance is usually a belief that an individual’s job security or position of influence in an organization depends on the tacit knowledge that he or she has and that the organization needs. Such beliefs result in fear that full revelation of an individual’s important knowledge would be followed by dismissal or loss of influence in an organization, because — presumably — the individual would no longer be as necessary or important to the organization. Overcoming such fears is likely to require a profound rethinking of the employment relationship in many organizations, especially with regard to key knowledge workers   Organizations must also meet the challenge of adequately evaluating tacit knowledge that has been made explicit by individuals. Individuals with different backgrounds, education, and organizational roles may have varying sets of knowledge, with resulting differences in their deeply held ideas about the most effective way to get something done.



1.“Tacit Knowledge” versus “Explicit Knowledge”  Approaches to Knowledge. Management Practice by  Ron Sanchez Professor of Management, Copenhagen Business School and Linden Visiting Professor for Industrial Analysis, Lund University. Knowledge Transfer.pdf

2. Smith, Elizabeth A. “The role of tacit and explicit knowledge in the workplace.” Journal of knowledge Management 5.4 (2001): 311-321.

3. Wickramasinghe, N., Bali, Lehaney, et al. Healthcare Knowledge Management Primer. Routledge, 2009

4. Landry, R., et al. The knowledge-value chain: a conceptual framework for knowledge translation in health. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. August 2006, 84 (8).


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