Tacit Knowledge

Tacit Knowledge is

  • a kind of unconscious knowledge or procedural knowledge that we know yet cannot express or have difficulties expressing
  • is inchoate: it may be expressed in language but more typically is experienced as an intuition, a feeling, a felt sense, written into our body, our thoughts.

Related Concepts: Felt Sense; The Secret, Hidden Writing Process: How to Tap Your Creative Potential


“I shall reconsider human knowledge by starting from the fact that we can know more than we can tell

Michael Polanyi

In The Tacit Dimension, Michael Polanyi (1966), theorized that we know much more than we can express. For Polanyi, tacit knowledge is practical knowledge gleaned from personal experience, subjective experience, as opposed to the sort of conceptual or declarative knowledge we learn in school.

Polanyi rejected the notion that knowledge could be solely objective or positivistic. For Polanyi, all forms of knowledge had a tacit or personal dimension.

Tacit Knowledge is all that you have learned. Tacit Knowledge is the gestalt of the conversations you’ve had, all of the stories you have read, and all of the scenes and dramas you have observed. In the workplace, tacit knowledge is all of the collective stories and life lessons that people hold in their memories.

As an example of tacit knowledge, consider your linguistic abilities: as native speakers you can converse in your native language even though you may not be able to explicitly define the grammar that structures your speech. Likewise, you may be able to ride a bike without really knowing how we do it.

Tacit knowledge plays a profound role in composing. Writers draw on their personal knowledge, common sense, and intuition when composing.

References

Polanyi, Michael (1966), The Tacit Dimension, University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 4.

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