Organizational Learning & Knowledge Management LO23946

From: Fred Nickols (
Date: 02/10/00

Replying to Robert Bacal in LO23900 --

>On 5 Feb 00, at 6:40, Fred Nickols wrote:
> > >This is all very interesting, although it's again wandering around in the
> > >desert looking to the dessert in all the wrong places.

So you say, Robert; however, I don't agree with you.

Fred Nickols also wrote...

> > I am not sure what you mean by "symbolic instruction" but I am confident
> > that I, too, can develop in others the ability to pick selected others out
> > of a crowd. Using photographs or videos or any number of other display
> > devices coupled with the good old fashioned gesture of pointing will get
> > the job done.

To which Robert responded:

>That would be cheating though regarding the transfer of tacit
>knowledge. Using a photo is different from articulating the ways of
>facial recognition, so it's irrelevant.

True, using a photo is not the same as articulating features but I never
said it was. However, if we are talking about the ability to develop
tacit knowledge in others, and if (as I assume) we are unable to
articulate it in ways that this development occurs, then I fail to see how
using photos is cheating (except in the sense that it is not relying on

>However I believe if you allowed me enough resources and research
>capabilities, I could teach you or anyone how to recognize almost
>anyone (at least from the same cultural group). It clearly CAN be
>done. So either recognizing faces isn't an example of tacit, or tacit
>can be articulated and taught. All that would remain would be to
>carry out the research, which I suspect has already been done.

Robert: You are noted for taking fine points so bear with me while I
attempt something similar. In the paragraph above, the word "So" is used
as a synonym for "therefore." In other words, your opening statement, one
of belief, is followed by a conclusion that hinges on the acceptance of
the belief. Clearly, you accept the belief; after all, it is yours. I
don't. Therefore, for me, your conclusion does not follow. It is for you
a quite correct conclusion. It is for me a non sequitur.

Robert avers:

>I don't care if you want to call it transfer, teach, or anything else,
>and I think again this is the typical obscuring of the issue.

Ah, Robert; are you accusing me of obscuring issues? Darn! I thought I
was working to clarify them.

>honestly, if I CAN do take someone and teach something you call
>tacit, so they can carry out the task, demonstrating they have
>learned, then that's all it takes to disprove the notion that tacit
>knowledge is inexplicable. If I explicate, someone understands,
>and performs well at the task that proves understanding in action,
>what else is important?

Well, for starters, what was explicated? Next, how did that explicated
knowledge get transformed into a capacity for action on the part of the
learner? Is there more to performing the task than the articulated
description of it? If so, what is that something else? If not, have we
finally discovered an instance in which the map is indeed the territory?

>I have this "thing" with light as the seasons change. Perhaps it's a
>former dabbling in black and white photography. This year the
>"light" changed to a Spring light about two months early. I KNOW
>it's changed, but I can't YET explain how to help others "see" this
>change. But if I wanted to take some time to study the relevant
>subjects and theory of light, sun position, hue, colour, shadows,
>etc, so I could map my own experience onto that information, I
>could teach, or transfer this tacit sensitivity so others could see it
>The nifty part is that the people I succeeded in teaching this too
>could then teach others to do it. Tacit knowledge has to do with
>HOW something is learned and has little to do with the CONTENT
>of the knowledge.

That sounds to me like one of your favorite subjects: cueing.

>But again, we would need to discuss psychology, not philosophy
>tounderstand this.

Perhaps that's the problem, Robert. After all, Polanyi was a chemist
turned philosopher, not a psychologist.


Fred Nickols The Distance Consulting Company "Assistance at A Distance" (609) 490-0095

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