7 Types of Knowledge: Explicit, Implicit, Tacit, & More

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Your entire organization is built upon knowledge. Knowledge is acquired, transferred, and put into practice in all your company processes – marketing products or services, hiring new employees, participating in daily meetings, etc. This is why knowledge management is critical to an organizations’ success. 

To build a successful knowledge management plan for your organization, it’s important to dive deeper into the different types of knowledge. By understanding different types of workplace knowledge, you’ll identify the most effective mechanisms for recognizing, acquiring, transferring, and applying necessary knowledge and information within the company. 

7 Types of Knowledge in 2022

  1. Explicit knowledge
  2. Implicit knowledge
  3. Tacit knowledge
  4. Declarative knowledge
  5. Procedural knowledge
  6. A priori knowledge
  7. A posteriori knowledge

The 7 Types of Knowledge

Knowledge sharing allows employees to deliver better results, enables customers to use your product or service better, and allows for better growth of your workforce. 

types of knowledge

But without understanding the differences in various types of knowledge, you can’t identify knowledge gaps that exist within your organization. So let’s have a look at the most common types of knowledge in detail. 

1. Explicit knowledge

Explicit knowledge can be documented, transmitted, and most importantly, learned by outsiders. It’s any information that’s easy to share and understand.

In a workplace, transferring explicit knowledge is probably the most important part of knowledge management. This form of knowledge is often used when a new employee joins an organization. Your internal knowledge base or internal wiki is an example of managing and organizing explicit knowledge. 

Explicit knowledge is stored in documents, libraries, books, video tutorials, whitepapers, and other forms of verbal or written communication. When it’s communicated effectively, business operations run faster with fewer roadblocks such as the lack of the necessary information or experience. 

Examples of explicit knowledge in practice

We’ve already mentioned explicit knowledge is an inevitable part of the employee onboarding process. Here are additional examples of explicit knowledge in the workplace:

  • Content that helps introduce your product or service, such as case studies, video tutorials, training manuals, etc. is an example of sharing explicit knowledge with new customers or users.
  • Documentation that covers your buyer personas’ characteristics to communicate explicit knowledge with sales executives.
  • A company vision statement is another example of documenting explicit knowledge. Your employees and prospects can relate to it without the need to experience it.
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2. Implicit knowledge

Implicit knowledge is a more complex concept and is gained through real-life experience. It is obtained through experience and can be captured and transmitted. In contrast, tacit knowledge isn’t articulated so easily, but we’ll cover that form of knowledge later in this article.

Implicit knowledge is a useful asset to your team. While onboarding new employees, sharing explicit information and knowledge is not enough. You also want them to understand why it works. You want to let them use this information to gain new skills and identify best practices that allow them to work more productively. This is what implicit knowledge is all about.

Examples of implicit knowledge in practice

This form of knowledge is extremely important for organizations. As your team members or customers translate explicit knowledge into practice to succeed, your business performance improves drastically. Here are a few examples of using implicit knowledge in business environments:

  • While a company’s values and mission statement refers to explicit knowledge, nuances of accomplishing specific tasks is considered implicit knowledge. This information is captured into process documentation and transmitted only by a person who has learned something new after applying explicit knowledge. This is a better way of executing tasks, addressing problems, or avoiding roadblocks.
  • When customers of a product or app finally have their “aha!” moment, the moment where they use a product and find its real value – that’s an example of implicit learning and knowledge.

3. Tacit knowledge

Tacit knowledge is also achieved through experience, but how is it different from implicit knowledge?

Let’s say you’ve watched a video tutorial on pronouncing the French ‘r’ and decided to put the knowledge into practice. After you’ve figured out how to pronounce the sound, you’ve gained implicit knowledge. But how do you document and transfer something like a pronunciation? 

Another example is learning to ride a bike. How would you explain that today? It’s impossible to fully explain how this skill has been gained and it’s difficult to teach it to other people. This is exactly what tacit knowledge describes.

Tacit knowledge is defined as information learned through experience that an individual can’t recall and express. Tacit knowledge can’t be recorded and stored like implicit knowledge. 

Does it mean tacit knowledge sharing is impossible? It doesn’t – it’s just more difficult and nuanced. One of the effective ways to transfer tacit knowledge is 1-on-1 mentoring. Interactive continuous training and job coaching sessions help exchange this type of information from one individual to another.

Examples of tacit knowledge in practice

Exact examples of tacit knowledge in the workplace is more difficult to showcase, but it takes part in the development of your business and employees. Many times it is referred to as “an art” or “natural talent” – simply because tacit knowledge can’t be explained through a quick video tutorial or process document.

  • Great writing – New employees can be told various tips on how to improve their writing, but it won’t happen overnight. Being coached and going through writing development and improvement training is the only way to further develop this knowledge.
  • Leadership skills – You learn them throughout your career path and can’t transmit them to anyone.
  • Pitching – When a sales executive identifies the right moment to pitch an offer, that gut feeling is not something that can be documented and distributed easily.

4. Declarative knowledge

Declarative knowledge refers to facts that are static in nature. It can be information based on principles, concepts, events, etc. It’s also called descriptive or propositional knowledge.

When you hire a new employee, you expect them to obtain declarative knowledge on the company culture and the job role they’ve been hired to fill. A key task for onboarding managers is to identify what declarative knowledge new hires need to be taught during the employee onboarding process

For senior managers and experienced hires, you should expect them to already have declarative knowledge needed for the role.

Examples of declarative knowledge in practice

Declarative knowledge is explicit and is easily communicated when necessary. Rather than answering ‘why’ and ‘how’ based questions, it focuses on ‘what’ type questions. That’s why examples of sharing declarative knowledge are most common for career advancement training and top-funnel content:

  • For interns and entry-level hires, a key part of onboarding is to focus on passing declarative knowledge. These materials contain information about the basic principles of the projects they’ll be working on, terminology, and other crucial facts.
  • In content marketing, content in the ‘awareness stage’ breaks down key concepts new to your readers. This is where the need to transfer declarative knowledge comes in.

5. Procedural knowledge

Also known as imperative knowledge, procedural knowledge is the opposite of declarative knowledge. It answers ‘how’-based questions and includes information on the various ways of performing a specific task. Procedural knowledge is gained through experience, that means it’s a form of implicit knowledge. 

It’s a clear understanding of how to do something after you’ve practiced it. To avoid losing critical information on your business processes in the event of employee turnover, this knowledge should be documented. 

Examples of procedural knowledge in practice

How is procedural knowledge translated into practice? There are plenty of ways to share it and make use out of it:

  • A webinar on best practices of conducting sales outreach from a top-performing sales manager.
  • Interactive product demos that allow a prospect to interact with a product and get hands-on experience with its functionalities.
  • Specific process documentation and standard operating procedures (SOPs).

6. A priori knowledge

Next comes two more opposite knowledge concepts: a priori knowledge and a posteriori knowledge. Both terms come from the Latin language and are translated as ‘from the former’ and ‘from the latter’. The concepts have been rooted in Western philosophy since the time of Immanuel Kant.

A priori knowledge is knowledge that is gained independently of any evidence or experience. As a non-experiential type of knowledge, it’s a result of abstract or logical reasoning alone. That being said, to shape a priori knowledge, an individual still needs certain experience in the field.

You’ll find examples of applying a priori knowledge in math, philosophy, engineering, and other sciences.

Example of a priori knowledge in practice

This type of knowledge isn’t captured and applied too often in organizations, but it doesn’t mean it’s not used. One example is: 

  • Executives understanding that to break even and make a profit, the company needs to generate a thousand sales conversions each month.

7. A posteriori knowledge

Contrary to a priori knowledge, a posteriori knowledge is derived from experience. The knowledge can be reasoned and logically explained only after an individual has observed a certain event.

A posteriori knowledge is considered the most subjective type of knowledge since it heavily relies on individuals’ interpretations of their own observations. You can’t use a posteriori knowledge in your company’s knowledge base, but you can’t afford to neglect it. It’s an important aspect that boosts creativity and unlocks new opportunities for your business. It’s key to digital innovation and solving larger, difficult-to-solve business problems.

When you encourage your teams, regardless of their seniority, to acquire knowledge by taking action, there’s a chance of them identifying ways to redesign outdated business processes.

Examples of a posteriori knowledge in practice

A posteriori knowledge doesn’t have set guidelines. This means there can be various interpretations and outcomes and you can use a variety of exploratory tactics and techniques to find answers to complex problems.

  • What types of campaigns generate the most engaged leads?
  • How do you improve your application’s daily active users?
  • When you avoid providing detailed process documentation for employees, they obtain a posteriori knowledge by creating a process through their unique experience that may be better than previous processes.

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FAQs

A knowledge base serves as a tool for employees and users to find accurate information when required. It’s a digital vault for your resources, including onboarding & training materials or guided software tutorials.

Knowledge management is the systematic method of creating, capturing, organizing, storing, and sharing essential information to become more efficient. The main goal of knowledge management is to connect employees seeking knowledge and solutions to the correct information as quickly as possible.

Ensure you take the following elements into account when designing your knowledge management strategy:

  1. People and Culture
  2. Process
  3. Technology
  4. Strategy

A knowledge management strategy helps you identify what knowledge you need to manage and keep your project on track.

  1. Build your knowledge management team
  2. Identify your knowledge goals
  3. Perform a knowledge audit
  4. Choose your technology
  5. Create a communication plan
  6. Establish milestones
  7. Build a roadmap
Distinguishing between types of knowledge for better knowledge management

These are seven types of knowledge for you to consider in the process of developing a knowledge management strategy. Each of them is crucial for effective knowledge sharing. 

While most companies heavily rely on distributing explicit knowledge, they overlook concepts that are more difficult to convey, like implicit knowledge, tacit knowledge, and posteriori knowledge.

Only 9% of companies are ready to create strong knowledge-sharing cultures. It means you can still make your knowledge management plan your biggest competitive advantage. Make sure to create an environment where recognizing and sharing every type of knowledge is encouraged. 

With a digital adoption platform (DAP), support your employees with “just-in-time” learning that provides knowledge in the flow of work. Whatfix allows companies to create in-app training and on-demand self-help support content such as walkthroughs, product tours, tool tips, tasklists, and embedded knowledge bases that help transfer knowledge to your employees.

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