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Eliciting Tacit Knowledge for Learning Olivier Serrat


The views expressed in this presentation are the views of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Asian Development Bank, or its Board of Governors, or the governments they represent. ADB does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this presentation and accepts no responsibility for any consequence of their use. The countries listed in this presentation do not imply any view on ADBs part as to sovereignty or independent status or necessarily conform to ADBs terminology.

Core Knowledge Activities

The routine of core knowledge activities comprises five components. Requirements 1. Activities should be aligned or integrated into business processes. 2. Activities should be balanced according to the specificities of each process and organization.
Use Knowledge Store Knowledge Identify Knowledge Create Knowledge

A knowledge management solution should not focus on one or two activities in isolation.

Share Knowledge

Knowledge Assets
Explicit Knowledge
Is codified knowledge Can be expressed in writing, drawings, computer programs, etc. Can be transmitted in various forms

Tacit Knowledge

Is knowledge that people carry in their heads

Is rooted in skills, experiences, insights, intuition, and judgment

Is hard to communicate but can be shared in discussions, storytelling, and personal interactions

Knowledge Assets
Explicit Knowledge = Media-based
Paper-based, multimedia, digitally indexed, digitally active, etc.

Tacit Knowledge = In peoples head

Learning is the acquisition of knowledge or skills through instruction, study, and experience.

Learning is driven by organization, people, knowledge, and technology working in harmonyurging better and faster learning, and increasing the relevance of an organization.
Learning is an integral part of knowledge management and its ultimate end.
Data Information Knowledge Wisdom

Know What

Know How

Know Why

Learning from Experience

Triple-Loop Learning
Context Assumptions Actions Results

Single-Loop Learning (Are we doing things right?) Double-Loop Learning (Are we doing the right things?) Triple-Loop Learning (How do we decide what is right?)

Organizational Learning
Learning is the key to successsome would even say survival in todays organizations.
Organizational learning is the activity and the process by which organizations reach the ideal of a learning organization. Organizational learning is the ability of an organization to gain insight and understanding from experience through experimentation, observation, and analysis, and a willingness to examine successes and failures.

Organizational learning promotes organizational health and consequently increases organizational performance.

Organizational Learning
Every person has the capacity to learn, but:
organizational structures and systems in which each functions are not automatically conducive to reflection and engagement.

psychological and social barriers to learning and change may be present.

People may lack the knowledge management tools with which to make sense of the circumstances.

Organizational Barriers to Learning

Penalties for Not Learning The Role of Leadership Learning to Unlearn Exclusion Organizational Structure

The Bias for Action

Cultural Bias



False Images

The Funding Environment

Commitment to the Cause

Advocacy at the Expense of Inquiry

Thinking Strategically about Learning

Knowledge Inaction

Practicing What Is Preached

Multiplying Agendas

A Learning Organization
A learning organization highlights experience as a source of learning. It emphasizes the means and ability to exploit its track record, using field operations as a primary source of learning, while drawing from elsewhere.
A learning organization is built around peopletheir know-what, know-how, and know-why are central to the undertaking. Conscious, continuous, experiential, and effective learning is centered on human interaction and community building.

Dimensions of the Learning Organization

A learning organization must be organized into five, sometimes overlapping, levels: individual learning; team learning; cross-functional learning; operational learning; and strategic planning.
Individual and collective learning is not only about finding out what others already know, even if that is a useful first stageit is about solving problems by doing, reflecting, connecting, and testing until a solution forms part of organizational life.

Knowledge, Relationships, Context, and External Environment

External Environment
Partners, donors, other development agencies; networks; national and global factors, etc.

Organizational Context
Strategic alignment, management processes, institutional processes, funding cycles, historical evolution, etc.

Inter- and IntraOrganizational Relationships

Networks, information technology, communication plans, core functions, support functions, etc.

Organizational Knowledge
Identification, creation, storage, sharing and use; forms and locations; key activities and tools; relevance; monitoring and evaluation, etc.

Source: Adapted from Ramalingam, Ben. 2005. Implementing Knowledge Strategies: Lessons from International Development Agencies. Working Paper 244. Overseas Development Institute. Available: uments/wp244.pdf.

Areas of Competence
Strategy Development Management Techniques

Collaboration Mechanisms

Knowledge Sharing and Learning

Knowledge Capture and Storage

Competencies for Knowledge Management and Learning

Strategy Development. A strategy is a long-term plan of action to achieve a particular goal. Management Techniques . Leadership is the process of working out the right things to do. Management is the process of doing things right. Collaboration Mechanisms . When working with others, efforts sometimes turn out to be less than the sum of the parts. Too often, not enough attention is paid to facilitating effective collaborative practices. Knowledge Sharing and Learning . Two-way communication that take place simply and effectively build knowledge. Knowledge Capture and Storage . Knowledge leaks in various ways

Eliciting Tacit Knowledge

Building Communities of Practice

Communities of practice are groups of like-minded, interacting people who filter, amplify, invest, and provide, convene, build, and learn and facilitate to ensure more creation and sharing of knowledge in their domain.

Eliciting Tacit Knowledge

Building Networks of Practice

Organizational boundaries have been stretched, morphed, and redesigned to a degree unimaginable 10 years ago.
Networks of practice have come of age. The learning organization pays attention to their forms and functions, evolves principles of engagement, circumscribes and promotes success factors, and monitors and evaluates performance with knowledge performance metrics.

Eliciting Tacit Knowledge

Collaborating with Wikis

Wikis are websites that invite voluntary contributions to organize information. They harness the power of collaborative minds to innovate faster, cocreate, and cut costs. They are now serious business.

Eliciting Tacit Knowledge

Conducting Exit Interviews
Exit interviews provide feedback on why employees leave, what they liked about their job, and where the organization needs improvement. It is a tool to capture knowledge from leavers. Exit interviews are most effective when data is compiled and tracked over time. Exit interviews can be a win-win situation: the organization retains a portion of the leavers knowledge and shares it; the departing employee articulates unique contributions and leaves a mark.

Eliciting Tacit Knowledge

The Critical Incident Technique
The technique gives organizations a starting point and a process for advancing organizational development through learning experiences. The technique helps them study what people do in various situations.

Eliciting Tacit Knowledge

Harvesting Knowledge
If 80% of knowledge is unwritten and largely unspoken, we first need to elicit that before we can articulate, share, and make wider use of it. Knowledge harvesting is one way to draw out and package tacit knowledge to help others adapt, personalize, and apply it; build organizational capacity; and preserve institutional memory

Eliciting Tacit Knowledge

Identifying and Sharing Good Practices
Good practice is a process or methodology that has been shown to be effective in one part of the organization and might be effective in another too.

Eliciting Tacit Knowledge

Learning Histories
How can we gauge the successes and failures of collective learning? How can the rest of the organization benefit from the experience? Learning histories surface the thinking, experiments, and arguments of actors who engaged in organizational change.

Eliciting Tacit Knowledge

Monthly Progress Notes
Feedback is the dynamic process of presenting and disseminating information to improve performance. Feedback mechanisms are increasingly being recognized as key elements of learning before, during, and after. Monthly progress notes on project administration, which document accomplishments as well as bottlenecks, are prominent among these.

Eliciting Tacit Knowledge

Showcasing Knowledge
Information has become ubiquitous because producing, manipulating, and disseminating it is now cheap and easy. But perceptions of information overload have less to do with quantity than with the qualities by which knowledge is presented.

Eliciting Tacit Knowledge

Social Media
Social media is revolutionizing the way we live, learn, work, and play.

Staff Profile Pages

Staff profile pages are dynamic, adaptive, electronic directories that store information about the knowledge, skills, experience, and interests of people. They are a cornerstone of successful knowledge management and learning initiatives.

Eliciting Tacit Knowledge

Storytelling is the use of stories or narratives as a communication tool to value, share, and capitalize on the knowledge of individuals.

Eliciting Tacit Knowledge

Writing Weblogs
A web log, in its various forms, is a web-based application on which dated entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video are posted.

A web log enables groups of people to discuss electronically areas of interest and to review different opinions and information surrounding a topic.

Committing to Learning
Every Single One of Us Working in Teams As a Community


I ask questions. Inquiring minds are welcome here.

We check first to see what already exists.

We question accepted wisdom.


I contextualize learning to make it real.

We connect and take opportunities to learn.

We review lessons as we go and apply our learning.


I share personal details, roles, and skills.

We share experience, evidence, and feedback.

We share achievements, outcomes, and pride.

Further Reading
ADB. 2008 Notions of Knowledge Management. Available: ADB. 2009. Building a Learning Organization. Available: ADB. 2010. Compendium of Knowledge Solutions. Available: ADB. 2010. Seeding Knowledge Solutions Before, During, and After. Available: ADB. 2010. Learning in Development. Available: ADB. 2010. Learning for Change. Available:

Knowledge Management Center

Olivier Serrat
Principal Knowledge Management Specialist Knowledge Management Center Regional and Sustainable Development Department Asian Development Bank