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Towards Better Understanding of the Concept of Tacit Knowledge – A Cognitive Approach

Authors: Ilkka J. Virtanen


Tacit knowledge has been one of the most discussed and contradictory concepts in the field of knowledge management since the mid 1990s. The concept is used relatively vaguely to refer to any type of information that is difficult to articulate, which has led to discussions about the original meaning of the concept (adopted from Polanyi-s philosophy) and the nature of tacit knowing. It is proposed that the subject should be approached from the perspective of cognitive science in order to connect tacit knowledge to empirically studied cognitive phenomena. Some of the most important examples of tacit knowing presented by Polanyi are analyzed in order to trace the cognitive mechanisms of tacit knowing and to promote better understanding of the nature of tacit knowledge. The cognitive approach to Polanyi-s theory reveals that the tacit/explicit typology of knowledge often presented in the knowledge management literature is not only artificial but totally opposite approach compared to Polanyi-s thinking.

Keywords: Cognitive science, explicit knowledge, knowledgemanagement, tacit knowledge.

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