Knowledge Management

What is Explicit Knowledge? Definition, Examples, Benefits & More!

Explicit knowledge (or expressive knowledge) is any information that you can document, store and share with others. Learn about explicit vs. tacit knowledge and more.

Introduction

When discussing or designing knowledge management, you must understand two types of knowledge: explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge.

And while they're both important, you should consider explicit knowledge.

First, an organization's success depends on its ability to capture and share knowledge. Second, while there are different types of knowledge, explicit knowledge is significant because you may capture, articulate and share it with ease.

And with much information available and circulating within an organization, knowing what to capture, share or use is a challenge.

So, in this guide, we'll define explicit knowledge, share its benefits, compare the types of knowledge, examples and how to capture and share explicit knowledge.

What are the different types of knowledge in an organization?

You must first understand the different types of knowledge before we define explicit knowledge.

The 3 core types of knowledge are:

  • Explicit knowledge.
  • Tacit knowledge. 
  • Implicit knowledge. 

We'll define each knowledge type but focus on explicit knowledge and its benefits in an organization.

What is explicit knowledge?

The simple definition of explicit knowledge is that its knowledge that's straightforward and easy to express (articulate), document and share.

Explicit knowledge is also called expressive knowledge, which is easy to pass along (share) with others.

This knowledge can be codified and digitized in:

  • Documents.
  • Reports.
  • Books.
  • Standard operating procedures (SOP).
  • Memos.
  • Manuals.
  • Databases.
  • Videos.

... etc., to facilitate action. 

When an organization processes, structures, organizes, interprets, stores data or information and makes it shareable, the result is explicit knowledge.

Examples of explicit knowledge

Explicit knowledge is all around us. Here are some examples that employers and employees see, view or use in their daily business roles.

Employee handbook

This is a book employers give employees during the hire or as part of ongoing development. It outlines business, employment and job-related information for employees' knowledge.

For example, HR managers can help new employees learn processes 93 percent faster with auto-generated step-by-step guides.

These guides can be shared with department managers to help new employees learn more about the business and adjust to their new roles fast.

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Code of Conduct

An organization's code of conduct is a guideline regarding employee behavior. These guidelines outline employees' behavior, chain of reporting, authority and more.

User guides 

A user guide also called a user manual or operations manual, supports users in efficient use and operation of a particular app, product or service. Most user guides are how-to guides.

Standard operating procedures

A business' standard operating procedure (SOP) document includes step-by-step instructions outlining how workers can properly carry out their routine operations.

SOPs must be followed the exact way they're written to guarantee consistency and compliance with business standards and industry regulations.

Operations manual

An operations manual is like a user guide but more detailed. It guides employees to perform their job functions correctly, reducing the chance of errors and missteps.

A company's FAQ

Most companies include frequently asked questions and their answers on their websites to help visitors and employers understand the company, product or service.

For example, the Scribe FAQ section informs users about details and uses approaches of different Scribes functions and Pages. You can create an effective knowledge base FAQ with Scribe.

Customer feedback

Companies nowadays collect customer feedback, such as reviews and online surveys and display them on their websites.

Creating a centralized repository of customer feedback helps employees and customers understand how people interact with the business or its products. 

Implicit knowledge vs. explicit knowledge

Implicit knowledge implies the practical application or use of explicit knowledge. This is learned knowledge, skills or know-how.

There are various instances of implicit knowledge in any organization or environment.

For example, asking a team member or new hire how to perform a task can spark a conversation about the various options to perform the task and potential outcomes. The discussion can lead to determining the tasks' best course of action. 

That team member's implicit knowledge is what educates the conversation of how to do something and what could happen. 

Explicit vs. tacit knowledge

Tacit knowledge is the opposite of implicit knowledge. 

Tacit knowledge is data or information that can't be documented or expressed (articulated) with ease.

Tacit knowledge is the intuitive information in an individual's mind that is context-specific and gained through personal experience or learned on a job. It's difficult to explain, express, present or write down in a physical/tangible form.

Tacit knowledge is the type of knowledge people use daily to complete tasks and is difficult to share.

Examples of Tacit Knowledge.

  • Personal wisdom.
  • Experience.
  • Insights.
  • Intuitions.
  • Leadership skills.

An example of tacit knowledge in use is a senior employee who knows when a new hire needs mentorship to realize their potential is insight or intuition. 

Benefits of explicit knowledge to grow your business

Here are the reasons why having explicit knowledge in your organization is important.

Enhance organizational agility

When employees access useful explicit knowledge, it enhances your business' agility.

Knowledge doesn't remain tacit, so employees can access and use it. Employees can share valuable information among themselves or with customers, enabling a business to move much faster. Sharing explicit knowledge with others in the company or eternally allows employees to learn new information that improves their job performance.

Faster decision-making

Having quick access to explicit knowledge means employees can make quick decisions without having to hunt through the organization for the right person with knowledge.

For example, since the information is already at your fingertips, employees don't have to wait for a slack response or an email.

The employee will just search through the knowledge management system and find the right answer.

Source of collective knowledge

Documenting information into explicit knowledge creates a repository of information in an organization. This creates a knowledge base or source of collective information shared among employees, departments, team members or the entire company.

Clear communication

Documenting data and information to create explicit knowledge improves an organization's communication flow.

It helps communication between employees and management flow seamlessly, allowing everyone to access the same information. Since everyone can access the same information, there's no opportunity for disruption or miscommunication.

Use standard procedures 

When you document past solutions, there's no need to reinvent the wheel. You'll spend less time replicating already existing work than coming up with a new solution. This saves time and resources.

Reduce errors & streamline operations 

Documenting a company's policies and procedures makes employees efficient and less likely to make errors. For example, when performing a task, the staff can consult the documentation in the knowledge base to follow procedures and ensure things work out right. Employees can also share explicit information like customer feedback to streamline operations.

Right to access information

Capturing and sharing your explicit knowledge means giving employees the right access to the information at the right time. This improves knowledge flow throughout your business, allowing employees to do their jobs more effectively.

Prevent knowledge loss

When individuals have knowledge in their minds, there is risk of its loss if the person leaves the organization. If the same knowledge is captured as explicit knowledge, anyone else can access it, and an employee's departure doesn't affect job performance. 

Methods to transfer knowledge in an organization

While we describe knowledge as 'explicit' or 'tacit,' in reality, knowledge only exists on a spectrum, and all knowledge is valuable. This also makes knowledge transferable. 

The different methods of transferring knowledge in an organization are:

Explicit-to-explicit

An explicit-to-explicit knowledge transfer combines existing knowledge to create a new form of explicit information.

It involves transforming knowledge and documents into a new way or presentation. Examples of explicit-to-explicit knowledge transfer include digitizing documents, sharing a file digitally or transferring online docs to a PDF file.

Tacit-to-explicit

This is the opposite of explicit-to-tacit knowledge transfer or externalization. It occurs when an individual applies learned knowledge and skill to external documentation.

For example, it involves writing or encoding information into a document or format from which others can view, understand, share and learn. Examples of tacit-to-explicit knowledge transfer are product reviews, interactive user guides, writing journals/articles, documented how-to guides and more.

Explicit-to-tacit

When a person strives to improve their knowledge by internalizing explicit knowledge into their personal experience and skill, that's called explicit-to-tacit knowledge transfer. The individual then applies the skill from their experience without needing to refer to explicit or documented knowledge. For example, reading a user guide or watching a user video and learning how to use a product/service is explicit-to-tacit knowledge transfer.

Tacit-to-tacit

When individuals, such as team members or trainers and trainees, exchange knowledge, learn and apply the knowledge internally, that's tacit-to-tacit knowledge transfer.

Tacit-to-tacit knowledge transfer may occur during onboarding, training, coaching, mentorship or employee brainstorming sessions. Examples of tacit-to-tacit knowledge transfer are group discussions, market surveys, opinion polls and onboarding training.

How to capture explicit knowledge for business growth: effective steps 

How do you capture and store explicit knowledge in your organization?  

Here are practices to encourage your own explicit knowledge transfer with Scribe and your team's explicit knowledge capturing: 

Let's dive in.

Where does explicit knowledge come from?

Explicit knowledge is the organization's information or data that you've processed, structured, organized and interpreted. 

Put simply, explicit knowledge is information that is (can be) documented, stored and shared for use now or in the future. This makes explicit knowledge easy to articulate, record, communicate, store and access.

Set company goals for knowledge capture & transfer

What are your company's goals for knowledge capture and transfer? These goals define where your explicit knowledge will come from and where your Knowledge Management strategy will focus.

Define the circumstances where your business loses knowledge and the information your employees need to do their work. Then, create goals, offering solutions for your business knowledge management challenges

This will help you know what information to capture and store in your knowledge base.

Perform documentation audit to identify knowledge gaps

A documentation audit will reveal your organization's knowledge gaps. If you haven't performed documentation updates in a while, you may find documents and areas that need updating, missing topics and areas that need fresh content. 

To do this: 

  • Audit and appraise your documents for relevance, validity, accuracy and access. 
  • Remove obsolete information or documents.
  • Simplify documents that are difficult to read or understand.

You can also ask employees the knowledge they'd like to consume, see documents or have knowledge gaps and the processes or tasks they think should be recorded.

Select a quality knowledge capture tool

The right Knowledge Management tool will make your knowledge capture and management easy. 

You need a Knowledge Management System (KMS) that enables you to manage your organization's knowledge centrally while also allowing contributors to access, collaborate and share the knowledge.

A knowledge base platform like Scribe can help you empower your IT teams to use the tools they need to succeed. Scribe allows internal knowledge capture, collaboration and sharing.

With Scribe, you can automate process documentation, set roles for contributors, control access to content or publishing or delete and share documents. 

Involve employees to participate and contribute knowledge

Knowledge Management is a team effort. Harness the collective knowledge within your workforce by involving employees in your knowledge documentation.  

Also, Knowledge Management — documentation and sharing — will be more successful if it's prioritized for everyone within the company. Use a quality Knowledge Management System to connect your team and allow them to author, organize and revise content.

To encourage employee participation, reward the best knowledge contributors with an incentive or financial.

Organize & segment knowledge in a knowledge base

Nobody likes wading through tons of knowledge to find simple information. It is no fun. But this is the case as organizations grow and increase their documentation.

The solution? Proper document and information segmentation. 

A quality knowledge management solution should help you organize documentation and segment them into categories for easy navigation. Ideally, you create different categories, tasks, projects and teams to avoid overloading people with irrelevant information.

For example, you can use Scribe Pages for document segmentation. 

A search function in a knowledge management platform can help people quickly find what they want fast. 

Design templates for each content or topic

When creating knowledge, consistency is key to making it easy to read and reference. This is why creating templates is important.

The templates will simplify process documentation and make explicit knowledge easy to read and understand.

For example, you can create a 'how-to guide' for creating instructions to include an introduction, format, style, etc.

If HR creates a standard onboarding document, all departments will create the same onboarding process for new hires in their respective departments. 

Without proper knowledge and guidelines, teams and departments will be authoring content of different formats and styles. This can create a discrepancy in process documentation and hinder workflow.

Conduct regular audits of team contribution

Knowledge Management isn't a static resource that you create and leave alone. It's a constant process that needs regular checks.

This includes checking your team's contribution to knowledge capture, sharing and storage.

If there needs to be more employee contribution, you can push themes to promote Knowledge Management. Maybe the KMS is complicated or difficult to use or maybe the work environment doesn't support knowledge sharing.  

Find out and resolve the issue to foster the culture of ongoing knowledge gained sharing in your organization. 

Collect insightful feedback & improve the process

The Knowledge Management software you choose should come with analytics to allow you to check your company's knowledge performance. You need to see the best-performing areas of your knowledge management and those that need improvement.

Only KMS analytics can show you this.

For example, in your Wiki Software, go to the search history and find out terms users are searching more, the most popular content and the most valuable content.

And because Knowledge Management is ongoing, track your strategy and improve how you capture and transfer explicit knowledge in your business.

Use Scribe to make knowledge management easy

Optimizing and documenting your business' explicit knowledge can improve your team's performance, enhance productivity and stimulate business growth. But it's challenging.

To successfully capture explicit knowledge, you need a combination of strategy and process, a quality knowledge management platform and employee dedication.

Use Scribe to enhance your process documentation and support your process of capturing explicit knowledge.