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The relationships between codified and tacit knowledge in the codification process The codification process alters the relationship between the codified and the tacit form of knowledge. On the one hand, codified knowledge refers to a view of knowledge as necessarily explicit, formal or systematic which can be expressed in words and numbers, scientific procedures, or universal principles. This codified category of knowledge is easy to transfer, to store, to recall and to valorise. On the other hand, the notion of tacit knowledge refers to that form of knowledge that cannot be easily expressed. The main forms of tacit knowledge are know-how (that results from the accumulation of practice), the mastering of a language (that results from the accumulation of the ability to communicate) and ³representations of the world´ (that results from the accumulation of wisdom).4 Whereas codified knowledge can easily circulate and be exchanged, tacit knowledge is extremely difficult to transfer and to exploit. However, when compared to codified knowledge, one of the characteristics of tacit knowledge is that it allows firms to solve specific problems, even when there is no general understanding of the reasons behind these problems or the optimal rational methods for their solutions. Skills or know-how are associated with the use of implicit routines or procedural rules that can be shared via learning, imitation and practical examples, rather than explanations and manuals, repeated practices. Nevertheless, there is one condition for the use of tacit knowledge to be efficient: it must be permanently activated. If tacit knowledge is not activated, after a time, knowledge will be forgotten and lost.5 Among the tacit forms of knowledge, some are fundamentally unarticulable, which means that it would cost too much, at the current state of knowledge, to try and articulate these pieces of knowledge.6Cowan et al. (2000) argued that this category of unarticulable knowledge is infra-marginal. Very little knowledge is inherently tacit and impossible to codify. Most of the tacit knowledge is just unarticulated, and the process of codification can be viewed as an attempt to transform, at a finite cost, unarticulated pieces of knowledge into codified ones. However, reducing the process of codification to mere conversion of tacit knowledge into a codified form, where the new codified knowledge is just substituting for some of the tacit form, would oversimplify the complex nature of the process and lead to misleading interpretations. Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) showed that the codification process appears as a complex conversion process, where the codified and the tacit forms are not substitutes, but rather complements. In most contexts, agents need at least the tacit knowledge involved in mastering a language in order that codified knowledge can be reconstituted as operational and generative. Moreover, as more knowledge gets codified, the nature of the tacit form is also generally changing. In other words, the process of codification is a process of knowledge creation that alters both the codified and the tacit forms of knowledge. 7 As new knowledge is codified, new concepts and terminology will inevitably be introduced so that the codification of knowledge inherently involves further creation of knowledge. The combination and the composition of tacit and codified knowledge depend strongly on the context within which agents or organisations manipulate knowledge. This means in particular that there are contexts in which agents will be willing to invest more on codification, and other contexts in which they would rather use and reinforce their tacit knowledge. Thus, the ability of a cognitive agent to exploit different categories of knowledge matters. On the one hand, the existence of given tacit forms of knowledge (beliefs, languages, know-how), of accumulated learning and habits, and of norms will shape the ways codified knowledge is produced. On the other hand, the way codified knowledge is produced (the nature of the codes, the types of organisation, the nature of physical carriers of knowledge) will also shape the ways learning processes are directed, focused and assimilated. The context-dependence
search tools on the web. or the mastering of a given language. even in the cases where the codification processes fail to come at a reasonable cost to a usable codified form. This has positive potential impacts in terms of cost reductions. as screening and selection of information become important functions. More precisely the analysis of such examples suggests. When it is stored in codified form. whereas some other part is put under her focal awareness´ (Polanyi. through a codification process. When emphasising the importance of the context in the analysis of the relationships between tacit and codified knowledge. for example. It is attention rather than information that is becoming a rare resource. different types of know-how (the ³artisan´. namely. The nature and the costs of the codification process is not the same if one aims at codifying a belief. when the knowledge we seek (to understand) is tacit. In a modem economy. make the problem of degree of attention more and more acute. for it contributes to facilitating the division and the dispersion of knowledge in different phases or domains ( Machlup. the transformation of some tacit knowledge (embodied in collective know-how) into ³higher level´ types of tacit knowledge (embodied in the strategic vision and representation of the firm). some codified knowledge can be made tacit by an agent. The dispersion of knowledge is related to local situations in which knowledge is produced (a site. But they generally lead to an improvement of the strategic vision of the firms concerned (Benezech et al. Information abundance is generating a problem for agents to discriminate between information which are important to store and memorise. there could be also negative impacts . A new skill must be cultivated.8 Moreover. a workshop. However. and information that can be simply ³put in the basket´.10 As we will see later. the ³repairer´. the rapidity of knowledge production and codification processes and the low and decreasing costs of storing codified knowledge. who places part of her knowledge in a zone of ³subsidiary awareness. did not succeed or just partially succeeded. the more knowledge management problem changes shape. ³know-where´ becomes important. The division of knowledge is a result of the division of labour in the field of knowledge production. To use Lundvall¶s taxonomy. and lead to only partially codified knowledge. how to find things using. 1962). Cowan (this issue) showed that in the case of expert systems analysed by Hatchuel and Weil (1995). there are numerous cases in industry where ISO certification efforts.9 The more knowledge is being stored and made available in codified form. there could be some indirect advantages of the codification efforts in terms of increase of some form of tacit knowledge. as attempts to codify some tacit knowledge embodied in collective practice. Polanyi (1962) showed that what matters is the degree of attention of the cognitive agent. the ³strategist´ know-how) lend themselves with different degrees of compliance to the codification process. the question of degree of attention is a key phenomenon to understand the process of building competencies by firms. a representation of the world. a specific know-how. For instance. ³knowwho´ is extremely important. a laboratory). this issue). To this extent. 1983 ).nature of knowledge clearly suggests that tacit knowledge also refers to knowledge which is not mobilised (at least consciously) when conducting some activities in a given context. The process of codification allows the modularization of knowledge.. The context-dependence of the codification process is particularly important when considering the type of tacit knowledge that is the point of focus of the codification effort.
or a given network. How to build storage processes that are integrative. a strategic development partnership. 1994 ). Steinmueller (2000) showed that the contribution of ICT has been relatively modest. It facilitates the emergence of new forms of learning. when reflecting the recent history of the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) to achieve ³direct´ codification of knowledge that is related to individual and organisational memory. learning by using).from knowledge being more specialised and dispersed. A better signalling capability for agents facilitates the formation of reputation and trust. raising the marginal cost of knowledge integration. . but one can expect a higher dispersion as knowledge production becomes more collectively distributed (located in many places). It is probably not disputable that the division of knowledge is increasing over time (specialisation). It contributes to enhancing the ability to generate technological options. that is to say which are not just reproducing the state of division and dispersion of knowledge as it was at the moment of its creation? Through the process of codification. Codification reduces some of the costs in the process of knowledge acquisition and technology diffusion. It improves the reliability of information storage and retrieval. benefit Codification directly affects the speeding-up of knowledge creation. An increase in the division and dispersion of knowledge makes it more and more difficult for economic agents to locate and retrieve elements of knowledge that would be particularly useful to them. 25 Moreover. It contributes to increasing the value of ³on line learning´ (learning by doing. such as ³experimental learning´. knowledge may be used by agents as a signal. 26 It contributes to increasing the speed and decreasing the cost of developing prototypes. codification has significant consequences for the technologies of learning ( David. The signal could indicate a specific capability or a competence for an agent who wants to enter a specific commercial relationship (such as a joint venture). innovation and economic change. that make the differentiation between ³on-line´ and ³off-line´ learning activities less and less relevant. However. The dispersion trend is less clear. And this increasing tendency of knowledge division and dispersion again makes the problem of memory more acute. This in turn lowers the risks to enter into contractual relationships when co-operative schemes seem more adapted.
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