There are three major types of knowledge you need to know for your career: explicit, implicit, and tacit. Explicit knowledge is generally documented information. All kinds of information that are available in documented form come under this category. While the implicit type of knowledge covers all the applied information. Whereas the tacit type of knowledge is termed as understood information. All these three knowledge types have close integration with each other.
Three Types of Knowledge
Everyone learns differently, and that’s okay. Understanding that there is more than one way to acquire knowledge will help you find the best path for your learning needs. Below, we’ll explain the types of knowledge that you need to know, and how to acquire them.
Explicit knowledge is the kind you learn in a formal or informal setting. Just think about the first course you take in college, or when you’re learning a language. It’s also the stuff you see in printing on a syllabus or checklist in a book.
In the classroom, knowing that your professor will have a grading or a rubric is explicit knowledge. Explicit knowledge is the classic stuff of textbooks. You probably remember learning the basic concepts of how the brain works in elementary school. Explicit knowledge includes understanding things like syntax, sentence structure, and metaphors.
The implicit type of knowledge is unique from all other types. In this type, knowledge, and information are not documented or extracted. But it is a type where information comes accidentally or all of a sudden. Learning comes through the ongoing process. For example, to know how to eat, walk or swim, etc.
Tacit knowledge is the kind of information that is often easy to access but hard to put into words. We can often understand it, but we often don’t know how to articulate it. We can’t easily explain it. It tends to stick with us in our subconscious mind and then become subconscious knowledge.
The principle behind this is that the information you need is really not going to come from your explicit knowledge. But it will come from a combination of explicit and implicit knowledge.
This type of knowledge can’t be extracted through the conventional method of passing information from person to person. In other words, you can not store it on a hard drive. Or can be understood by looking at the person who learned it. It is understood by many people, but we are not expected to know it unless we are told about it.
A simple example of tacit knowledge is pointing at someone when they are talking. When you can’t talk, but you do something to show you are listening. And you want to be acknowledged, you are implicitly learning about who that person is.
Sometimes, we think we know something, but if we had to give it a scientific definition, we would most likely find that we are wrong. The concept of tacit knowledge first appeared in 1973 and describes knowledge that is essentially unquantifiable. The best way to talk about tacit knowledge is as being able to infer knowledge that is not explicitly stated.
The simplest example of tacit knowledge is the concept of cause and effect. A large container with water in it will slowly grow and eventually overflow. You can understand that the container will overflow. But you cannot put numbers on the exact second and third before the container overflows. This might sound as if it is entirely inaccessible, but you can measure it and see its outcome.
Why is it important to understand the different types of knowledge?
For one, the way that knowledge is passed to us, and what types of information are passed is important. When we use implicit knowledge, we rely on physical cues like body language to figure out what information is appropriate and when we can interrupt it. This is why verbal and body language cues are sometimes used as an alternative to written communication (after all, we read physical cues as well).
A second reason is that a key to effective problem solving is understanding what information is hidden, explicit, and implicit. Hidden knowledge is something we don’t know or often don’t think about, but is essential for getting around in our daily lives.
How explicit knowledge is passed on
Explicit knowledge is information that you can verify yourself by looking up in a book, watching a video, or reading a company website. It can be converted into business processes, but you must actually know how the functions of the business process work.
This type of knowledge can be very difficult for people who have not put in the effort to learn it. I regularly hear people say: “There is no way that we could manage and implement [abstract, formal, and technical knowledge] if we didn’t have [direct knowledge] of business.” People assume that business knowledge is exclusive knowledge of the organization’s actions. The opposite is true.
Explicit knowledge can also be a big asset to the organization if it can be properly documented.
How implicit knowledge is passed on
Intuitively, we know that implicit knowledge is based on how we experience it, not on what is told to us. In fact, this is why most of us lack explicit knowledge of how to get the job done or what we should study in college. Our own experiences cause us to instinctually know how to do things.
For example, if you’re on a flight and your captain tells you that the plane will turn to the right, you’re going to subconsciously turn in the right direction as well.
This is also why we often don’t know the purpose of a task that we’re doing or the details of an obstacle we face in our career, even if someone asks us to explain it. Sometimes, we don’t realize what we’re doing or what we’re supposed to do until later.
How tacit knowledge is passed on
Implicit knowledge is best described as information that a person doesn’t realize that they’ve internalized until they need it. For instance, I know how to drive a manual car, but I can never remember which gear to use from one time to another. You can just start the car from a certain place and go as fast as you want with the gear you’re in. There’s no recorded data, so you’d have to apply tacit knowledge to figure it out for yourself.
It’s also important to note that knowledge that people learn in the absence of explicit knowledge cannot be explicit knowledge because it doesn’t contain any facts. So you can’t see the cat in the tree without seeing the cat.
Implicit Knowledge in Fashion Design
Implicit knowledge is the ability to use built-in knowledge to solve a problem. Explicit knowledge includes all the scientific data we learn about a subject. You can research this type of knowledge to improve your fashion design skills by reading, watching, or listening to fashion magazines and watching fashion shows on the web.
Implicit knowledge includes facts that we already know from prior experiences. For example, if you don’t know how to design a business suit, you’ll use what you’ve already learned to come up with a design that’s profitable and understandable.
Lastly, there’s tacit knowledge. The hardest to acquire. But it can be the most valuable if we use it correctly. This includes things like existing fashion designs that are successful and don’t change to fit the changing times.
Implicit Knowledge in Fashion Marketing
Implicit knowledge can be broken into two general categories: heuristics and tacit knowledge. Heuristics are common knowledge you pick up in life, like how to hold a cup, where to stand, or how to speak properly. Your ability to recognize these everyday interactions is likely due to implicit knowledge.
Tacit knowledge, on the other hand, takes more time to become aware of. It requires reflection and even learning from others. Tacit knowledge is informed by a variety of things, such as the environment and the experiences of others. Although it does not give direct clues about how to perform a task, it does give clues on what kind of task you might be performing.
The bottom line
By highlighting how different types of knowledge contribute to success, I hope you can understand how you can apply these concepts to any career you choose, as long as you know how to design knowledge for your future self.
By focusing on each type of knowledge, I’ve discovered you can learn more information without necessarily having to be able to connect the dots. This allows you to narrow your focus on what matters to you most, freeing you up to pursue your passion with the knowledge and techniques you’ll need to make it happen.
Here’s a fun little exercise to try out. Think of one type of knowledge that makes you stronger, smarter, or funnier, and list out every source you’ve ever heard it from, plus the kind of information you think you might want to know more about.