“Tacit knowledge” may be an unfamiliar term to many, yet it is something that we all have – Even the person packing your groceries. Simply put, it is the knowledge gained through intuition, experiences, insights and observations. Do you want to climb the corporate ladder faster? or do you want to become a specialist in your field? If you answered yes to either question, then you probably need loads of tacit knowledge and fast. Maximize you ability to gain tacit knowledge efficiently, by practicing these great tips:
Have a slice of humble pie
Are you a smarty pants with fancy degrees? If this is true then your pompous nature is probably difficult to control. But if you have any desire to gain tacit knowledge, you need to be prepared to relinquish your pride and practice the art of humbleness. Treat everyone in your company with equal respect, even the cleaners. Chances are everyone in the company has some form of tacit knowledge that could benefit you – therefore being humble coaxes people into wanting to share what they know. Arrogant, rude and obnoxious people are often the slowest to progress. People don’t want to share knowledge with people they feel threatened by or simply don’t like, read this article from the New York Times about hiding knowledge in the work-place.
Throw away the textbook and find a mentor
We are conditioned from childhood to cherish books – which is not wrong. However, it is easy to get caught up with explicit knowledge and ignore more efficient and practical ways of doing things. When starting your career let your textbooks take a temporary sabbatical and replace them with a mentor. Be prepared to find better methods of doing things. This will often mean unlearning old concepts and re-inventing the way you think about things. Don’t be afraid to have an open mind. Find a mentor, and learn how to pragmatically approach the work you do. You can always re-enforce your learnings later with textbooks and you will find that in doing this, the abstractness of difficult concepts will be greatly reduced. The practical component of learning will also enable you to retain and assimilate data effortlessly. Always remember that explicit knowledge is easily available, however tacit knowledge is a rare find.
Share your knowledge
“Sharing is caring” as the common expression goes. Friendships are formed by genuinely taking interest in another person. By assisting others and sharing your practical strong points, they too will be inclined to return the favor. Often much more generously. If for example, you are a programming whiz, then assist someone who needs the help. They may then offer you assistance with public speaking that could then help you in your next big presentation. A “give and take” attitude will greatly assist in enforcing a “tacit knowledge transfer” culture within the company.
Ask to assist in projects and meetings
Whether it is serving coffee to the senior managers, or taking minutes in meetings – just being a part of big projects are of vital importance. It does several things: 1) it shows that you are taking initiative and therefore seniors are more obliged to disclose the knowledge they have gained. 2) it gives you a birds eye view of how things are done in a practical setting. Just watching experienced people work can greatly improve your tacit knowledge. Always be prepared to take on new projects to get noticed by the right people.
Talk to friends in similar industries
Who better to gain knowledge from, than your peers? The advantage of this method is that you are able to gain tacit knowledge in two different work -place settings. By exchanging knowledge with a friend, you will find that it easier to fill in knowledge gaps. In some cases, a friend may introduce you to a solution that your company may have been trying to solve for years. Just be careful with company confidentiality though;It is never a good idea to divulge company secrets.
Find practical mediums to attain tacit knowledge
Whether it is joining forums, professional bodies, workshops or reading articles by professionals – these are the best ways to gain tacit knowledge exposure. These mediums are often from a practical viewpoint. They are based on real life examples and case studies which supersedes the “ideal case” scenario academics are faced with. You may also get an opportunity to network with senior people and form new business relationships.
Build friendships with retirees
Retirees are probably the most knowledgeable people in organizations. They often have loads of tacit experience that they never get to fully transfer before retirement. These are the people that are often looking for someone to listen and share knowledge with since they no longer have a need to feel threatened by competition. If they see you as someone willing to learn, they will automatically take on the role of mentoring you. You will find that they will be willing to share more and aid you in becoming successful.
According to the best seller: “how to win friends and influence people,” people love to be appreciated for something they do well. You will be surprised at how effective a simple compliment about someone’s skills can make them want to share more about their capabilities. The next time you see someone brilliant at problem solving, a skill you are poor at for example, saying something along the lines of : ” Wow! you are really good at thinking out of the box. I wish I could be that creative. Do you have any tips to share?” Then give them a big smile. Don’t resort to flattery though, as it could have a detrimental effect. Instead just look at things that you really admire about someone and point it out – then the rest will come naturally.