Organizational Learning & Knowledge Management LO23919

From: Winfried Dressler (
Date: 02/07/00

Replying to LO23888 --

Fred Nickols wrote in reply to At de Lange:

>My definition of tacit knowledge follows Polanyi's statement that
>"We can know more than we can tell." By that definition, tacit
>knowledge cannot be articulated.

>So, given the definition of tacit that I use, it is a complete waste
>of time to try to persuade me that it can be articulated. By
>definition, it can't.

Dear Fred,

I completely agree to your definition. So I will not waste time (o.k.
there are other ways to waste time as well ;-) ). But:

I see in Polanyis quote more than a definition:

Definition: Tacit knowledge cannot be articulated (the difference between
'know' and 'can tell')

Proposition: Tacit knowledge can exist.

I don't find the inference, that I cannot do tomorrow, what I cannot do

When I manage to articulate today, what was tacit yesterday, then this bit
of knowledge emerged from the tacit to the formal. Fred, don't become
angry, please, I know that you would call such knowledge implicit. But
look, the fact that I could articulate the knowledge today, making it
implicit knowledge from some point in the past up to the moment I made it
explicit, does not mean, that the knowledge was already implicit all the
past, including yesterday. Isn't it at least thinkable, that I wasn't able
to, really could not tell what I knew yesterday, making this knowledge
tacit according to your definition. But then, as time passed, somewhen I
could - and somewhen I did.

Taking my children as example, I know about some of their experiences and
also some of their tacit knowledge. There is also a lot that they
articulate explicitely. From this I am quite sure about their implicit
knowledge - knowledge which they could articulate, but didn't and will
never do so for most of it (although they are talking most of the time).
Tacit is that part of their knowledge, which they know, but cannot tell.
It is there, and it is distinct from the implicit knowledge, so your
distinction makes much sense to me. But some day they surprise me
articulating what I thought was tacit to them. It is then when I know that
they have taken another step of their development.

I hope you don't mind that I introduced time dependence of knowledge - the
arrow of time is too obvious when it is about knowledge throughout
history. We even talk about creating knowledge.

Liebe Gruesse,



"Winfried Dressler" <>

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