We’re always a bit sceptical about the jargon du jour. But one buzzword keeps cropping up and we think there might be a reason: Tacit Knowledge.
Tacit knowledge, first conceptualised by Michael Polanyi, is knowledge that is hard to put into words — the stuff that’s difficult to articulate and transfer to another person.
Companies and individuals accumulate tacit knowledge over time through front-line experience — often they don’t even realise that they have it. In contrast, explicit knowledge can be easily described in words and transferred to another person (think software demo).
Very often it’s the tacit knowledge that gives successful companies their competitive edge – (or ‘sustained competitive advantage’ for jargon lovers).
It can live in a number of places in organisations – but most often with employees who have a way of doing things that works but find it hard to explain exactly how or why.
It’s what goes on in the head of that great salesperson or that unassuming techie who can crack a problem in minutes (but explain how in hours). It can even be dispersed across a group of people doing things a particular way. Like that business unit that consistently outperforms every other– what do they have that the other units don’t?
It’s a knack, its an insight, its in their gut. It comes with experience. The good news is – it can be brought out and shared. It’s hard but not impossible.
That’s where marketing plays an important role. If tacit knowledge is indeed so important to gaining and sustaining that competitive edge, then its marketing’s job to identify what tacit knowledge the company has, where it is, how to bring it out and make it easy to understand – not only to use internally but also to communicate the advantage it brings to customers.
There’s no short cut: marketers need to get up close and personal with these experts. Talk to them about their work, how they go about it day to day, observe them doing it then question them hard (but lovingly). Fall in love with the word “Why”. Find ways to articulate their knowledge.To make the tacit explicit.
This will take time, patience and most of all a genuine interest in finding out your experts’ hidden pearls of wisdom.But one thing is certain – put in the hard work and the results will be worth it.
Image Copyright Zitona
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