Explicit Knowledge vs. Tacit Knowledge

What's the Difference?

Explicit knowledge refers to knowledge that can be easily articulated, codified, and transferred through formal language or documentation. It is typically objective, factual, and can be easily communicated to others. On the other hand, tacit knowledge is more subjective and personal, often rooted in personal experiences, insights, and intuitions. It is difficult to articulate and transfer, as it is deeply ingrained in an individual's mind and often relies on context and practice. While explicit knowledge can be easily shared and taught, tacit knowledge is often acquired through observation, imitation, and hands-on experience. Both types of knowledge are valuable and necessary in different contexts, and organizations need to find ways to effectively capture and transfer both types to ensure overall success.


AttributeExplicit KnowledgeTacit Knowledge
DefinitionKnowledge that can be easily articulated, codified, and transferred through explicit means such as writing or verbal communication.Knowledge that is difficult to articulate or codify, often deeply rooted in personal experiences, skills, and intuition.
FormCan be documented, recorded, and shared in explicit forms such as documents, manuals, databases, or diagrams.Primarily resides in the minds of individuals and is expressed through actions, behaviors, and practical know-how.
TransmissionCan be easily transmitted and shared among individuals through various explicit means of communication.Transmitted through observation, imitation, apprenticeship, and hands-on experience.
AccessibilityRelatively easy to access and distribute to a wider audience due to its explicit nature.Often difficult to access and transfer as it requires direct interaction or personal involvement.
ExamplesScientific theories, mathematical formulas, procedural guidelines, documented best practices.Artistic skills, intuition, craftsmanship, expertise developed through practice.
ExplicitnessCan be made explicit and communicated in a clear and unambiguous manner.Remains implicit and is challenging to articulate or express in a precise manner.

Further Detail


Knowledge is a fundamental aspect of human existence, enabling us to understand and interact with the world around us. However, not all knowledge is the same. Two distinct types of knowledge, explicit and tacit, play crucial roles in various domains, including education, business, and personal development. In this article, we will explore the attributes of explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge, highlighting their differences and importance.

Explicit Knowledge

Explicit knowledge refers to knowledge that is easily codified, articulated, and communicated in a formal manner. It is the type of knowledge that can be easily expressed through words, numbers, diagrams, or any other form of explicit representation. This knowledge is typically objective, factual, and can be readily shared with others. Examples of explicit knowledge include scientific theories, mathematical formulas, historical events, and procedural instructions.

One of the key attributes of explicit knowledge is its accessibility. Since it can be easily documented and shared, explicit knowledge can be disseminated widely, allowing individuals to learn from others' experiences and expertise. This accessibility makes explicit knowledge particularly valuable in educational settings, where textbooks, lectures, and online resources provide a wealth of explicit knowledge to students.

Another attribute of explicit knowledge is its ease of transferability. Due to its explicit nature, this knowledge can be transferred from one person to another without significant loss of information. For instance, a teacher can convey explicit knowledge to students through lectures, presentations, or written materials, ensuring that the knowledge is accurately transmitted.

Furthermore, explicit knowledge is often associated with a high degree of certainty and objectivity. Since it can be precisely defined and communicated, explicit knowledge allows for clear evaluation, verification, and replication. This attribute is particularly valuable in scientific research, where explicit knowledge forms the basis for experimentation, hypothesis testing, and the advancement of knowledge.

Lastly, explicit knowledge is relatively easy to document and store. It can be recorded in various formats, such as books, databases, or digital files, ensuring its preservation and accessibility over time. This attribute is crucial for organizations that rely on explicit knowledge to maintain consistency, improve efficiency, and facilitate decision-making processes.

Tacit Knowledge

Tacit knowledge, in contrast to explicit knowledge, is the type of knowledge that is difficult to articulate, codify, or transfer through formal means. It is deeply rooted in personal experiences, insights, intuitions, and practical know-how. Tacit knowledge is often subconscious and difficult to communicate explicitly, making it highly subjective and context-dependent. Examples of tacit knowledge include skills, expertise, craftsmanship, intuition, and the ability to ride a bicycle.

One of the key attributes of tacit knowledge is its personal and experiential nature. It is acquired through direct involvement, practice, and observation, often over an extended period. Tacit knowledge is deeply embedded in an individual's cognitive processes, emotions, and physical abilities. This attribute makes tacit knowledge highly valuable in domains such as art, sports, and craftsmanship, where expertise is developed through hands-on experience and continuous refinement.

Another attribute of tacit knowledge is its difficulty to articulate and transfer explicitly. Since tacit knowledge is often subconscious or automatic, individuals may struggle to explain or teach it to others. For instance, a highly skilled musician may find it challenging to articulate the nuances of their playing technique, relying more on demonstration and practice rather than explicit instructions. This attribute poses a challenge in formal education and organizational settings, where tacit knowledge may be overlooked or undervalued.

Tacit knowledge is also highly context-dependent. It is deeply intertwined with the specific situations, environments, and social interactions in which it is acquired. This attribute means that tacit knowledge may not be easily transferable across different contexts or individuals. For example, a chef's tacit knowledge of creating a specific dish may not translate directly to another chef, as it relies on personal judgment, sensory perception, and familiarity with the ingredients and cooking techniques.

Furthermore, tacit knowledge often involves a high level of intuition and creativity. It enables individuals to make quick decisions, solve complex problems, and adapt to novel situations. Tacit knowledge allows experts to rely on their "gut feeling" or "instincts" when faced with uncertainty or ambiguity. This attribute is particularly valuable in fields such as entrepreneurship, leadership, and innovation, where tacit knowledge can drive breakthrough ideas and unconventional approaches.

Lastly, tacit knowledge is challenging to document and store in a formal manner. Since it is deeply personal and context-dependent, tacit knowledge is often transmitted through direct interaction, observation, and apprenticeship. This attribute poses a challenge for organizations that aim to capture and transfer tacit knowledge within their workforce, as it requires fostering a culture of collaboration, mentorship, and knowledge sharing.


Explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge are two distinct types of knowledge that play vital roles in various aspects of human life. While explicit knowledge is easily codified, communicated, and transferred, tacit knowledge is deeply rooted in personal experiences, difficult to articulate, and highly context-dependent. Both types of knowledge have their unique attributes and applications, and recognizing their differences is crucial for effective learning, decision-making, and innovation. By harnessing the power of explicit and tacit knowledge, individuals and organizations can unlock new possibilities, deepen their understanding, and navigate the complexities of the world.

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