Knowledge management should privilege tacit knowledge and not stick to an IT perspective

Tacit knowledge “includes the unspoken knowledge that people draw from within themselves: observations, ingrained habits, inspirations, hunches, and other forms of awareness that are typically not written down or codified, but that live in people’s minds and bodies, and give any organization much of its distinctive edge over competitors.” Law departments are flooded with tacit knowledge, but almost bone dry on codified knowledge.

Having written about tacit knowledge without having never defined the term, I think this definition from strategy + bus., Iss. 53, Winter 2008 at 83 helps. The author says that tacit knowledge must be communicated through informal apprenticeship or one-on-one guidance. That’s the way lawyers learn.

As important, the article strongly makes the point that knowledge management is not primarily an information-technology issue. It is not about codifying best practices that can be captured, stored, indexed, and retrieved as efficiently as possible. Because of this misconception, law departments have probably invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in knowledge management systems — glorified databases – that fail to deliver the value the general counsel hoped for.

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