Tacit Knowing by Michael Polanyi

Monday 14th January 2013 – Tacit Knowing by Michael Polanyi

Text chosen by Leigh-Anne Hepburn.

Following on from our discussions of Dewey and Schon, I have chosen a piece of writing by Michael Polanyi for our next reading group.  Taken from his 1966 book The Tacit Dimension, chapter one is called Tacit Knowing and is attached.

A brief (wikipedia) intro to Polanyi and tacit knowledge:

Michael Polanyi, (11 March 1891 – 22 February 1976) was a Hungarian polymath, who made important theoretical contributions to physical chemistry, economics, and philosophy. He argues that not only does positivism give a false account of knowing, if we take it seriously it undermines our highest achievements as human beings.

The term “tacit knowing” or “tacit knowledge” was first introduced into philosophy by Michael Polanyi in 1958 in his magnum opus Personal Knowledge. He famously introduces the idea in his later work The Tacit Dimension with the assertion that “we can know more than we can tell.”.  According to him, not only is there knowledge that cannot be adequately articulated by verbal means, but also all knowledge is rooted in tacit knowledge in the strong sense of that term.

With tacit knowledge, people are not often aware of the knowledge they possess or how it can be valuable to others. Effective transfer of tacit knowledge generally requires extensive personal contact, regular interaction and trust. This kind of knowledge can only be revealed through practice in a particular context and transmitted through social networks.  To some extent it is “captured” when the knowledge holder joins a network or a community of practice.

My research concerns knowledge exchange and in particular I am interested in the exchange of tacit knowledge, methods for this including acquisition and accumulation and also whether the process of design can create opportunities for capturing, sharing and developing tacit knowledge.

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One Response to Tacit Knowing by Michael Polanyi

  1. Pingback: The Problem With Being a Fast Follower: Tacit Knowledge - The Discipline of Innovation

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