Explicit knowledge is easily communicated as hard data, clear guidelines, or through the language of science or mathematics. But explicit knowledge only gives a partial picture of reality. What can’t be expressed explicitly are the intuitive insights or subjective views which, because of our experience, carry the same validity. This less visible and more difficult to communicate information, this tacit knowledge, carries great weight since it springs from our personal know-how and from what we’ve learned applying the skills and techniques that each of us have personally fostered. Additionally, it is tacit knowledge that reflects perspective, beliefs, and the mental images (often not yet formed into words); the information we need to gain rapid insight.
Because of its very nature, what will constitute the information that is a product of tacit knowledge cannot be planned for. There is no way to predict the nature of the tacit knowledge that will spring from a group of people or how it will be communicated. Unlike, explicit knowledge which can be classified and stored within a taxonomy, tacit knowledge happens in unpredictable ways. Typically, this information is shared person to person, through informal discussions, in free flowing meetings, or by one to one conversations that might happen on the phone or in written exchange. But, in 21st century business this is becoming problematic.
Today, increasingly, people work more and more in virtual teams. Telecommuting is becoming common, organizational restructuring has lead to work environments where people interact based upon functional role and skill set not geographic proximity. We can talk on the phone or exchange emails but the very nature of such communication is to compartmentalize information, especially the tacit knowledge that is being created and shared. There is no bulletin board, no office meeting, no Friday afternoon happy hour, no water cooler. There is no forum where we can talk and muse about the job in an unplanned way. Opportunities for sharing and gaining insight from others are sparse.
A different sense of the organization is created within the mind of each person who has an opportunity to see more deeply into how others are functioning and why. By creating the opportunity for different voices to be heard a new sense of leadership is created that is not solely rooted in organizational hierarchy but in the contribution that comes from the fresh insights of individuals skilled in performing critical organizational tasks. As this happens, unplanned connections are created between individuals who share common views. A positive sense of the organization, and one's role in it, is created.
Through the use of Social Media, informal information networks can be created that allow individuals to make these connections, share tacit knowledge, and look at work from new perspectives. The openness and facility of use that is inherent to Social Media applications allows for information to flow easily thereby creating new opportunities for exchange. Within this medium, tacit knowledge can be shared without requiring the traditional and time consuming approach of making it explicit.
The growth in interest in Social Media inside the intranet, aka Enterprise 2.0, reflects the drive to create more opportunities for innovation by sharing information in unplanned ways and allow for connections between people who sit in discrepant parts of the organizational hierarchy. By using Social Media to reveal the details of one’s current activities, in process work efforts, work group discussions, and the relational context of one’s work deliverables, tacit knowledge is shared and an understanding of content and information is enriched.