Knowledge Transfer Part 2
Updated: Apr 18
Throughout the month of June we will be writing a three-part series on Knowledge Transfer. This is the second installment.
Dynamics of Knowledge Transfer
Knowledge is typically thought of as residing in either individuals, groups or the organization as a whole. Choice of best knowledge transfer practices are typically built around four scenarios in this framework:
Individual to individual, such as expert to novice
Individual to group, so as to broaden availability of specific knowledge or establish a common practice or language
Group to individual, transferring knowledge to a new member, again reinforcing and establishing a common practice or language
Group to group, where the objective is to preserve one group’s knowledge over time, or to broaden access to specific knowledge (best practice), and to reinforcing and establish a common practice or language.
Knowledge that is explicit is easily codified and can be shared independent of individuals by embedding it in processes and systems. A good example are simple checklists that are built into automated systems so as to error-proof basic processes. Tacit knowledge, however, includes “cognitive skills such as beliefs, images, intuition and mental models as well as technical skills such as craft and know-how.” This is the knowledge that we know but can’t always articulate – like ‘how to ride a bike.’ Knowledge that is not explicit can exist in at least four different states according to work published by DeLong, which guide our efforts to design best ways to transfer knowledge as follow:
Implicit rule-based knowledge: this is simply rule or fact-based explicit knowledge that has not been articulated. Sometimes called implicit knowledge.
Implicit know-how: Another type of un-articulated knowledge that can be readily communicated, but doesn’t lend itself to codification because of its complexity. It could be transferred if we asked the right questions. An example might be capturing which government officials are the most helpful and who is ineffective in getting a particular something accomplished. An interview process would likely capture the information, but this is not normally made explicit.
Tacit know-how: this type of knowledge is very difficult to verbalize, much less transfer. The knowledge comes from experience, is very hard to articulate (the how to ride a bicycle question), and often situationally defined.
Deep tacit knowledge: this is cultural knowledge that make up collective shared beliefs, mental models, values, and reflects what individual view as important. This is what a group defines as relevant and useful knowledge. Sometimes the most difficult to access and often transferred unconsciously.
 I. Nonaka and H Takeuchi, The Knowledge Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995)  D. Delong, Lost Knowledge: Confronting the Threat of an Aging Workforce (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004) p. 84.