Re: Emergent Learning LO2150

Michael McMaster (
Mon, 17 Jul 1995 22:41:49 +0000

Replying to LO2118 --

Jim, "fondling" definitely extended the tactile emphasis of the
metapor. But it no way limited it to that. Haven't you ever
carressed - or been carressed by - an idea?

> a) tacit knowledge is not necessarily sensory. I'd assumed, when I first
> thought about it in the "fondling" post, that it was;

Tacit refers to the non-explicable nature of the knowledge. This
must obviously include everything experiential and everything
tactile. But it really includes anything but simple formulaic
knowledge. That is, it must at least include the elements of any
knowledge which are not expressible - and these are always myriad.

> b) tacit knowledge can relate to explicit in far more complex ways than I
> had realized. In this story, for example, the tacit knowledge
> _follows_ the explicit, rather than preceding it.

I assert that tacit or implicit ( a better word, I think) always
precedes and follows explicit. I assert that there is *no* explicit
knowledge without implicit in vast quantities preceding it. And yet
the specific explicit knowledge may not have been contained in the

One of the best examples of this I know is the John Seely Brown
(Xerox) story of the increase in effectiveness of repair teams when
they had access to two way radios. The conversation on these radios
was about 80% on serious topics like football, sex, money and other
important matters and 20% on solving customer problems - but time to
fix systems plunged. When management said they were taking the
radios away, the players paid personally to keep them in existence
for the value they contributed to the bonus pool.

Another was getting cross functional groups (not teams) to pair up,
each in turn explain their major challenges, and have someone *from
an unrelated discipline* contribute to the solution. In every case,
the participants said, "It won't help. What do they know about my
problem?" In every case, they were helped significantly. And the
side effect was that they respected each other the next morning.

Michael McMaster