Knowledge is laid down in long-term memory in our minds from experience and years of study and informal learning. Knowledge only exists in the human mind.
We are not entirely sure how it is stored, but we know that it is not stored as a list of questions and answers as you might find in a computer FAQ (frequently asked questions database).
It is stored in some way as a network of associated fragments in our brain.
When we think about something, we dynamically assemble these pieces to construct a response to a desired outcome such as a question, a problem or something that we wish to do.
Implicit knowledge isn’t explicit knowledge that we’re not currently thinking about.
Implicit knowledge isn’t there the way ore is buried.
It’s “there” only in the sense that we can generate it when required.
Most simply: That we can come up with an answer doesn’t mean that the answer was lying dormant in us all along.
Answering questions is a creative act.
Credit: David Weinberger
Although we can encode knowledge by writing it down and turning it into information and thus sharing it, we can never fully encode everything that we know about a subject, and we can never encode it in a way that is easy for people with different levels of understanding to assimilate.
We always know more than we can say, and we will always say more than we can write down.
Credit: Dave Snowden
Because of this, knowledge is best shared through face-to-face conversation.
When we wish to explain something, we don’t know the recipient’s existing level of understanding or why they are asking the question and so we can only provide a general answer.
To respond more specifically we need to learn more about the issue by having a conversation and assembling the knowledge that applies to that context.
In other words, an explanation is constructed in response to a question or a problem in a particular context and at a specific moment in time.
Sharing knowledge is not about giving people something, or getting something from them.
That is only valid for information sharing.
Sharing knowledge occurs when people are genuinely interested in helping one another develop new capacities for action; it is about creating learning processes.
Credit: Peter Senge
In a face to face conversation, you can offer information about the issue; you can probe deeper into the situation; you can gain a sense of what the other already knows and so determine at what level to construct your answer; you can ask about the meaning of a term you are not familiar with; you can seek the reasoning behind a conclusion if it’s not evident and you can correct false assumptions.
The speaker and the listener repeatedly swap places many times in a short period; the listener is frequently interrupting the speaker and the roles changing.
Both parties actively try to make sense of what the other is attempting to convey.
Knowledge is surfaced, constructed and exchanged through such dialogue.
Credit: This post was inspired by a blog post by Nancy Dixon: Conversations That Share Tacit Knowledge
[Status: draft, I plan to expand on this.]
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