Categories of knowledge

Knowledge assets (e.g. the knowledge of a specialist or a research document) can be internal or external to the organization.

Knowledge takes different forms on a spectrum between explicit and tacit. This categorization is useful because to effectively manage the range of these diverse knowledge assets, different tools and approaches are required.

Explicit knowledge

This is concrete knowledge – that is, knowledge that can be easily codified, organized and stored. For example, an evaluation of the Federal government’s employment programs stored on an intranet site is an explicit knowledge asset. A policy or procedure manual is also an explicit knowledge asset.

Tacit knowledge and 'know-how'

Tacit knowledge is more difficult to codify, organize and store than explicit knowledge. Related to tacit knowledge is the idea of “know-how”. This refers to knowledge of the processes and tools required to accomplish something well. Know-how can mean having (Collison and Parcell 2004, pp. 34–35):

  • know-who about networks and relationships in and out of government;
  • know-what about content and specialist knowledge;
  • know-why about big-picture context, strategy and systems thinking;
  • know-where about researching and sleuthing skills; and 
  • know-when about timing of when to take action and when not to, such as deciding to set a project aside.