No business wants to constantly deal with duplication of efforts and wastage of available resources due to poor communication and coordination.
Yet, knowing how to maximize available resources is one of the biggest challenges businesses face when running business operations efficiently and differentiating themselves from the competition.
Wanting to use the resources at your disposal effectively and standing out from your competitors is one thing. But how do you harness your existing knowledge to achieve that?
Humans have three types of knowledge: explicit, tacit, and implicit knowledge. This article will explore what implicit knowledge is, how you acquire it, its benefits, and how it differs from the other two types of knowledge.
We’ll also look at some effective ways that you can capture and share implicit knowledge within your organization and improve your knowledge management strategy.
What is Implicit Knowledge?
Implicit knowledge is the knowledge you or your team members acquire when dealing with real-life situations and on-the-job learning experiences.
It is the “how” behind a specific task, explaining the procedure that you need to use to complete the task.
For example, you may have guidelines and a checklist of A/B testing guidelines for the team to improve your conversion rates. While that explains “what” they need to pay attention to when running experiments, it does not explain the “how’’.
When running these tests using the guidelines and checklist you provide, your team members may come up with a unique way of running experiments, which is different or slightly better than what you have in your SOP documentation.
Since this type of knowledge is rarely documented, it is difficult to share and improve efficiency in business processes. So if one of your team members leaves the company, it is hard to replicate how they ran these experiments, which means that you have to start from scratch with your new hires.
Why is Implicit Knowledge Beneficial for your Team?
In a single day, a lot of information flows through your business. There are tasks your team members complete, meetings they attend, and interactions with customers. Here’s what you stand to gain when you make use of implicit knowledge:
Improve efficiency in business processes
When new hires are just starting in the company, they will rely on your SOPs. However, as time goes by, they will find new ways to get things done more efficiently and hit their KPIs.
The evolution from relying on SOPs to innovation and efficiency always creates new information which, if captured and shared with relevant departments, will help improve efficiency in business processes.
If you’re in charge of content operations, you want to keep finding new ways to eliminate bottlenecks in your workflows and save time. So if a new content specialist comes on the team and, after a while, finds a more efficient way to optimize content without compromising on quality, then capture this knowledge and share it with the team to help improve your content operations.
Reduce hiring costs
When you consistently capture and share implicit knowledge, especially from more experienced team members, you help team members in junior roles grow in their current roles and set them up for more responsibilities within the company.
Whenever you want to fill a new position within the company, you’ll only need to look at your team and promote a qualified team member to the new role. That will help you reduce the cost of hiring a new team member from outside the company.
Improve employee engagement
Capturing and sharing implicit knowledge with team members supports their career development goals as they get to expand their skills beyond the typical SOPs you provide.
On the other hand, managers can support team members to hit their KPIs without having to micromanage them. The result? Engaged employees who are easy to retain within the company and improved productivity since they’re motivated to deliver on their KPIs.
Implicit vs. Explicit vs. Tacit Knowledge
Explicit knowledge relies on the “what,” outlining a specific procedure that an employee needs to follow to complete a task. It is easy to articulate through content, illustrations, or videos. Examples of explicit knowledge include employee handbooks and company SOPs.
Tacit knowledge comes from intuition and accumulated experience over the years. Examples of tacit knowledge include the ability to create beautiful designs, the ability to lead a team, sales, and innovation.
Both tacit and explicit knowledge differ from implicit knowledge in the sense that implicit knowledge deals with the how behind a particular task. Since this is the type of knowledge one gains from applying the information they learned from a guide or training, you can explain or articulate implicit knowledge.
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How to Harness Implicit Knowledge in your Organization
Given that implicit knowledge explains the “how” behind a specific task or procedure, it’s harder to capture and share because different employees have their own approaches to solving specific business problems. Here are several ways to capture and share implicit knowledge within your organization:
Peer learning programs and shadowing
Both peer learning and shadowing allow you to harness implicit knowledge by encouraging colleagues to interact and share knowledge. In doing so, they also allow experts to pass their skills and knowledge to junior employees.
Peer learning programs pair colleagues in the same departments with their peers to help them learn with and from each other and acquire a specific set of skills.
You can rely on peer learning when you want the team to be conversant with a specific way of completing a task that involves every team member. For example, depending on how big your organization is, bring in the finance team to share the company’s expense policy and procedure with heads of different departments and how they can enforce it to achieve business objectives.
Shadowing allows you to pair subject matter experts (SMEs) with team members in specific departments so that they can learn how to complete specific tasks or solve specific problems.
A key benefit of shadowing is that it is scalable. You don’t have to continually pair SMEs with team members to help them impart their skills, knowledge, and technical know-how to the interns or mentees.
Once a team member learns from the SME, they can always share their knowledge and skills with the rest of the team and even document their lessons and experiences for future reference.
Create a learning and development culture
Capturing and sharing implicit knowledge has always been a challenge for most organizations because there lacks a knowledge sharing culture that allows employees to share what they learn with each other freely. Besides, unhealthy competition among employees creates a toxic work environment, meaning everyone will hold back what they know.
A culture that does not appreciate or accommodate continuous learning and improvement among employees always blocks implicit knowledge, leading to information silos. So, instead of asking employees to share what they know, lead by example by sharing your experiences working on different parts of the business. Be consistent by making it a weekly habit where you invite everyone to share their knowledge, no matter their position on the team.
In addition to leading by example, publicly recognize employees’ contributions in your company newsletters and even on your company blog and social media handles. You can also add financial incentives and promotions to encourage employees to share what they know with each other. Build up on these efforts by providing employees with access to learning materials to help them improve their knowledge and skills.
The skills and knowledge they acquire will help them build up on what they already know, allowing them to innovate and have something to share with everyone else on the team.
Set up a process for documenting knowledge in one place
Your SMEs within the company might need more time to respond to random emails or quick-fire questions from employees who want to pick their brains about something they are working on. Similarly, they may not know everything there is to know about a particular topic, and that means you need to bring everyone else on board to contribute and fill in the existing knowledge gaps.
Create a question-and-answer platform where employees can go in and ask questions, then send out a weekly notification to the SME to respond to these questions. Have a moderator so that if a question has been answered in the past, they can refer the answers to the one who is asking.
Use your existing communication channels, such as Slack or company newsletters, to notify the team of pending questions and answered questions, inviting them to contribute to the discussion. This can be even sophisticatedly achieved by using a modern Knowledge base like Document360 to integrate with your internal communication tool and involving the contributors in discussion on the same page.
Also, to make these platforms more effective, pull out useful answers and turn them into internal SOPs that will benefit the entire department. This comes in handy whenever you are dealing with a complex concept, and they need to constantly refer to training materials to get things done.
You can also ask employees who respond to questions to document their process either through video or illustrations so that you can incorporate them into your existing SOPs.
The resources you have aren’t limited to what you can see, such as your budget or team members. It’s also about subtle things like company knowledge and how well you are positioning yourself to harness it to ensure efficiency and drive innovation.
Done right, capturing and sharing implicit knowledge will improve communication and coordination. It will ensure you’re using available resources effectively.
This is where software and tools, like knowledge bases, come in. A knowledge base stores all your company’s crucial information in one place. Document360, for example, offers both a knowledge base portal for editors and reviewers and a knowledge base site for customers and employees.
With Document360, you can build any of the following knowledge-sharing document:
- Product help docs
- Internal knowledge bases
- Technical documentation
- Online user guides
- Standard operating procedures
Now that you’ve mastered your knowledge management strategy, it’s time to level up by using Document360 to get rid of information silos and streamline knowledge management in your company.
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