Explicit knowledge

The Definition of Explicit Knowledge

This type of knowledge is formalized and codified, and is sometimes referred to as know-what (Brown & Duguid 1998). It is therefore fairly easy to identify, store, and retrieve (Wellman 2009).

It is articulated knowledge, expressed and recorded as words, numbers, codes, mathematical and scientific formulae, and musical notations. Explicit knowledge is easy to communicate, store, and distribute and is the knowledge found in books, on the web, and other visual and oral means. Opposite of tacit knowledge.

This is the type of knowledge most easily handled by KMS, which are very effective at facilitating the storage, retrieval, and modification of documents and texts.

From a managerial perspective, the greatest challenge with explicit knowledge is similar to information. It involves ensuring that people have access to what they need; that important knowledge is stored; and that the knowledge is reviewed, updated, or discarded.

Many theoreticians regard explicit knowledge as being less important (e.g. Brown & Duguid 1991, Cook & Brown 1999, Bukowitz & Williams 1999, etc.). It is considered simpler in nature and cannot contain the rich experience based know-how that can generate lasting competitive advantage.

Although this is changing to some limited degree, KM initiatives driven by technology have often had the flaw of focusing almost exclusively on this type of knowledge.

In fields such as IT there is often a lack of a more sophisticated definition. This has therefore created many products labeled as KM systems, which in actual fact are/were nothing more than information and explicit knowledge management software.

Explicit knowledge is found in: databases, memos, notes, documents, etc. (Botha et al. 2008)