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Thanks for the support on this Murray,
You make some very good points that illustrate this point well.
The mainstream education systems is very quantitative, which lends itself to categories and “explicit” elements. This is mainly, I think, because these are more easily assessed in objective ways (to be “fair”). The more intangible aspects of developing a capable human is often lost in the formal education and people are left to learn these critical capabilities outside the system - through their experiences of interacting with others.
The human “real world” is far more about relationships, perspectives and interpretation than quantitative “proof” and our education system (mostly) does not adequately prepare us for this subjective world. The subjective aspects of how we interact are spread across a wide spectrum (like knowledge in its own continuum). A truth for one person is seen as a false statement for another. Whilst there are some mathematical and chemical aspects of the world that can be “proven and repeated” through science, many things in the human world can’t. The ISO30401 states knowledge is a characteristic of humans – that is, it exists in their heads. Each person will have their own interpretation from subjective observations and these can all be true to varying degrees. Our beliefs (what we know to be true) are based on many things. An absolute truth for many can be utter nonsense for others (with each side having a set of “evidence” to support their view). The amount of love in a relationship can be felt and observed, but not measured. We have the knowledge that it is there and that it is important. However, we can’t easily define it in a tangible way (and if we did it would not fully reflect the importance and impact it has).
I can’t prove any of this of course, because it is based on my experiences and reflections over 6 decades of interacting with many, reading extensively and engaging in many conversations and arguments. I am personally comfortable in knowing what I know and completely comfortable knowing that others see that same thing differently. I continuously challenge my “knowledge” and remain open to adjust it when new evidence influences me to believe a new understating can be justified (based on a mix of tangible and intangible evidence).
I “know” some knowledge is more tangible than others - even a given element can shift over time. There are many things in human history that shift in and out of acceptance over time. One thing is for sure, when you are up for promotion, the outcome is unlikely to be determined on absolute quantitative data (just like the grading of an assignment worth doing - IE, one that reflects your ability to solve issues in the real world).
Your effectiveness as a leader will be determined by your EQ and soft skills (intangible knowledge) more than your IQ and technical expertise (Tangible knowledge/capabilities). Perhaps I am stretching this too far, but it is worthy of thought/reflection, perhaps even conversation.
This is my perspective of the reality of the human world we live in – one in which “knowledge” is a “shape-shifter” that acts in curious and unpredictable ways. We should not try to over categorise our most valuable assets - our knowledge, relationships, trust, social capital etc. We should accept they are a bit of a mystery and enjoy them (ensuring that we invest in them, knowing they are more important than “measurables”).
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From: main@SIKM.groups.io <main@SIKM.groups.io> On Behalf Of Murray Jennex via groups.io
Sent: Sunday, 17 January 2021 6:37 PM
To: arthur@...; email@example.com
Subject: Re: [SIKM] Model of an intelligent knowledge extraction in organizations
To support what I think Arthur is saying I have believed for many years and have seen the academic literature evolve to understand that knowledge is neither tacit nor explicit but instead is a mixture of both and that the mix varies between users. To illustrate: an expert may see their knowledge as mostly explicit and can explain it when asked, however other users who aren't expert see that same knowledge as mostly tacit. I personally believe that there is no purely tacit knowledge and that most all explicit knowledge has a small degree of tacitness, for example, I also teach systems analysis and design and while I can teach architecture concepts and discuss coding techniques and make them quite explicit with rules and heuristics, I still find that there is a tacitness to this as there are concepts I understand from 40 years ago that aren't taught today and haven't been for several years. So when I talk about a piece of code that I developed 30+ years ago to do nuclear containment leak rate testing I can explain all the coding aspects but still find students don't really understand it as I developed that code using compiled basic that required me to define my graphics pixel by pixel, communication protocols had to be expressed explicitly, and data/memory management had to work in a 64k environment. Students don't need to do this now and so while I can explain it exactly, I find that I have to go into much greater detail because while I consider the knowledge explicit, students don't. Same for paper and chapter on why we can't go to the moon, the need for KM. So while many have said that explicit knowledge is really information, in reality it is not always so. So to agree with Arthur, knowledge exists on a continuum with the end points being tacit and explicit and knowledge is a mixture of both. It is why I also said in an earlier post that I group knowledge by that which is harder to extract and that which is easier.
And as a side note, when my nuclear code was used a couple of years ago we had to go purchase older designed computers from eastern Europe to run the code (new computers won't and no one wants to invest the money to upgrade the code and recertify it), another aspect of tacitness that we hadn't anticipated......murray jennex
I have always considered categories convenient and efficient, but an oversimplification when it comes to real life matters such as knowledge, relationships and emotions.
I see such things as a mixed "This snd that" continuum rather than either "This or that". In the case of knowledge, this means a gradually shifting balance of tangibles (one bookend of the continuum) through to pure intangible (the other bookend). Most aspects of knowledge & related artefacts have elements of both tangible (explicit if you like) characteristics and intangibles (tacit). Its like light behaving as both a wave and a particle - we come to understand different insights depending on which perspective we adopt.
When I proposed such an insight be part of the ISO30401 KM Standard, it generated considerable dialogue. Although not included in the standard as such, it gets a mention in the appendix. I suggest it is useful to see knowledge as a complex thing that can be in different forms that merge into each other to differing degrees. These aspects are interdependent and are challenging to separate out, but it can be useful to consider the knowledge if interest from a range of perspectives when looking for solutions.
Hope this helps
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Hi Chris & all,
I am not a fan of the tacit/explicit dualism because I think it is too reductive and privileges a human-centric view of knowledge. I agree with Nick that it is perfectly fine for something to be both information and knowledge.
Here are just a few scenarios which I think challenge traditional views of tacit vs explicit, and explicit knowledge = information:
Rather than tacit vs explicit, I believe that the key transition occurs as we cross a system threshold. Inside the system threshold, it is meaningful to talk about its knowledge; outside, we must talk about transmitting information. New information can only be accepted as knowledge into that system once it achieves a certain trust threshold.
Thus, a written process sent through by head office represents information received by a staff member, but can be knowledge once incorporated into the execution of their role's systemic practices.
The switch in language between a role and a person is important since it represents an enlargement of system scope; employees are often asked to undertake a role "performance" which includes a broad scaffolding of policies, processes, technology, and person-to-person relationships.
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On 16/01/2021 6:02 am, Chris Collison wrote:
I’m with you Fred.
...and from my perspective (which not everyone shares!), I would add that explicit knowledge = information.
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From: main@SIKM.groups.io <main@SIKM.groups.io> on behalf of bill@... <bill@...>
I say the following knowing the risk with which I am placing myself 😊…never been a fan of “implicit” and so I am not a fan of Polanyi’s definition. My point, based on years of practical consulting application, is that “tacit” knowledge can be elicited, harvested, captured and distilled to make it searchable, findable, accessible and usable/reusable. There is a skill and craft involved IMO. My definition of knowledge is based on the concept that it consists of information and experience = knowledge. For practical, not academic or theoretical application, this simple, practical definition I find has meaning in a business or operational environment. This has been my experience.
FWIW, in relation to Bill’s use of “explicit” and “tacit,” I find a third category useful; namely, “implicit.” I define “implicit” as knowledge which hasn’t been articulated but can be. Tacit, by Polanyi’s definition, can’t be articulated. And explicit, of course is knowledge that has been articulated.
When it comes to capturing implicit knowledge, lots of folks have been doing that for many years. You will find them in the training and human performance community.
For more, see a piece I wrote for the KM Yearbook (2000-2001). https://www.nickols.us/knowledge_in_KM.pdf
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Been enjoying this timeless discussion on K capture and the extended inference about tacit knowledge and the subtleties of human language in the sharing in the context of the below thread.
Believe it is generally recognized that technology cannot yet get what is one person’s mind and transfer it to another person’s mind. At the heart of the issue, I believe, is the skill set that is required to capture or better said, to elicit what someone knows or can share, to distill and make sense of that knowledge whether it be explicit or tacit, and then to characterize it for reuse within an organization (fit for purpose and context relevant) and then to make is searchable, findable, downloadable, and usable/reusable.
I believe that this is a reasonable approach to as stated below “…to study KM processes, identify patterns and see if technology can address that in a narrow sense.”
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We are still very far from seeing any AI technology that can intelligently extract human knowledge in a broad sense. A main challenge is that of data, and in particular textual data. Data has to be structured in a certain format to be consumed by an AI machine, but in the case of textual data, the number of permutation and subtleties in human language makes this task tremendously difficult. But perhaps the biggest challenge is the limitation of computation power. The most powerful computer today has roughly 1 billion neural connections/synapses, similar to the amount of synapses that a honey bee has vs 100-150 trillion synapses of a human brain. It has been suggested by computer scientists that we are actually just approaching bee-level intelligence, and we are not even there yet.
That said, AI should be sophisticated enough for a focussed application, especially if it’s built around narrow use cases and trained for specific domains. e.g. the technology to recognise and extract names/entities from homogenous, unstructured text is fairly advanced, and so is the ability for a machine to auto-index/classify documents and textual data. Information extracted as such, combined with data visualisation techniques, will go a long way in enhancing the comprehension of what’s contained in an organization's textual data, and that is a possible KM angle you can look into.
Instead of looking at broad ways “to extract automatically all types of knowledge in an organization” (I don't think this exists), it might be worthwhile to study KM processes, identify patterns and see if technology can address that in a narrow sense.