Re: Tacit Knowledge LO2011
Sun, 9 Jul 1995 20:44:08 -0400

Replying to LO1967 --

Replying to Emergent Learning, In LO 1967, John Wilson writes:

>First off, learning can only be seen as emergent. It is not an add on,
piling up of
>information - knowledge. ......
>Tacit knowledge is the result of learning. It is meaning constructed from
>experiencing- that is feeling it. But, the result required some processing,
>reflection over the experience and what happened related to the experience.

I propose that the tacit side of learning some things is in any person. It
takes only conscious exposure to the explicit to bring out the tacit. I
want to understand your comment John and ask how would you explain the
following two examples of learning if tacit knowledge is only the result
of learning, follows from experiencing - that is feeling it?

Friend number one: I had worked with Ken for about 2 years when out of
the blue he expressed disappointment that he could not carry a musical
tune in the back of a 3/4 ton pickup, much less a bushel basket. He made
this comment after he heard me humming a tune. Long story shortened -
After some simple instructions - don't say the words just hum the same
sound of the musical note you hear, he could hum and within the day, sing
a song. He had been told as a child that he could not sing because he
could not hit the notes correctly. At age 32 and in less than 8 hours he
could sing. It was already in him. He only needed explicit instructions to
"hear" the notes instead of worry about the words.

Friend number two: In college Jim was getting straight C's in math. He
was attempting to learn calculus by rote. After a few (maybe 10) hours of
questioning about how he learned literature (straight A's), we transferred
this tacit learning mode into explicit understanding and applied it to
calculus. He immediately started getting A's on all work. There was
absolutely no delay in time. It started as soon as he applied the
different learning mode. He was in the top of a class of 1000 in calculus
the rest of his 18 weeks. It was in him to learn math. He needed a
different methodology than his professor was using. This was so exciting
to him that he transferred to another college and got a degree in
math/education. Today he teaches math.

I've heard a couple of people, I believe Peter Senge and Sue Miller Hurst,
talk about learning being in us. (I've probably badly misquoted them but
hopefully not misrepresented the thought.) In the cases of Ken and Jim, I
was astonished at what they could and did do.

>This process of reflection is quite often enhanced through conversations
among people.

John, I totally agree on what conversations can do to assist people. I
still make the mistake of suggesting to people I will follow-up with a
written copy of our conversations when in fact all they wanted to do was
deeply converse about an experience one of us had and then reflect.
However, the above conversations cited were my attempt to make explicit
certain techniques to help very good friends do something they wanted to
do. 30 years later I can still remember the reflection both these friends
were going through as we were working on what they wanted to learn.

In the context of explicit and tacit learning, has anyone else experienced
a "very rapid" (way above the norm) learning of something new that would
suggest some of the tacit was "already in them"? With 9 games of bowling
prior to joining a bowling league, in 4 months I became proficient enough
(220 average in three leagues) to consider becoming a professional bowler.
This was the fourth sport I had worked hard at, and could not even come
close to being a good amateur in the other three.

Why was I so dreadfully less than average in baseball and basketball? My
mother beat me in horseshoes in her second game ever, but I had practiced
for two months. I have presumed all these years that quite a bit of the
tacit learning (the feel for it) for bowling was in me, only waiting for
the explicit teaching - get a ball and roll it down the alley. By the way,
my friend Jim in the previous reference introduced me to the ball and
rolling it down the alley.


Have a great day!!

Dave Buffenbarger
Organizational Improvement Coach
Dow Chemical Company
(517) 638-7080