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Explicit Knowledge vs. Tacit Knowledge: What's the Difference?

By Janet White || Published on November 22, 2023
Explicit knowledge is clearly expressed and documented information, while tacit knowledge is personal, context-specific, and often unarticulated knowledge.

Key Differences

Explicit knowledge is easily communicated and stored, often found in documents and databases. Tacit knowledge, in contrast, is inherently personal and harder to formalize.
Explicit knowledge includes facts, instructions, and information that can be readily shared. Tacit knowledge is experiential, involving insights and intuitions that are difficult to express.
Organizations capture explicit knowledge through manuals and procedures, whereas tacit knowledge is embedded in individual experiences and seldom written down.
Explicit knowledge is accessible to anyone and can be taught, whereas tacit knowledge is often acquired through personal experience and observation.
In explicit knowledge, the transfer is straightforward and systematic. Tacit knowledge transfer, however, often requires mentoring and social interactions.

Comparison Chart


Clearly articulated and documented knowledge.
Knowledge that is personal and context-specific.


Structured and codified, often in writing.
Unstructured, intuitive, and hard to verbalize.

Transfer Method

Easily shared through documents and instructions.
Transferred through personal contact and experience.


Manuals, databases, books.
Skills, experiences, insights.


Accessible to anyone with the right information.
Often resides within individuals, challenging to access.

Explicit Knowledge and Tacit Knowledge Definitions

Explicit Knowledge

Explicit knowledge is often found in documented procedures and facts.
Their database of customer queries contains explicit knowledge.

Tacit Knowledge

Tacit knowledge is gained through personal experiences and observations.
A musician's skill in improvisation is a form of tacit knowledge.

Explicit Knowledge

Explicit knowledge is information that is readily articulated and recorded.
The company's employee handbook is a form of explicit knowledge.

Tacit Knowledge

It is often internalized and difficult to formalize or write down.
A craftsman’s expertise in woodwork is tacit knowledge.

Explicit Knowledge

Explicit knowledge includes codified information like guidelines and formulas.
Mathematical formulas in textbooks are examples of explicit knowledge.

Tacit Knowledge

Tacit knowledge involves skills and know-how acquired over time.
A surgeon’s tacit knowledge is critical in making split-second decisions.

Explicit Knowledge

It is knowledge that can be easily communicated and shared.
Instruction manuals are a common source of explicit knowledge.

Tacit Knowledge

Tacit knowledge is personal, context-specific knowledge that is often unspoken.
A chef's tacit knowledge is evident in the way they season dishes.

Explicit Knowledge

It is the type of knowledge that is accessible in written or digital form.
Online tutorials provide explicit knowledge about software use.

Tacit Knowledge

It includes insights and intuitions not easily shared through language.
An experienced manager's tacit knowledge helps in team conflict resolution.


Can explicit knowledge be easily taught?

Yes, explicit knowledge can be systematically taught and learned.

What is an example of explicit knowledge?

Company policies written in an employee handbook are explicit knowledge.

How is tacit knowledge acquired?

Tacit knowledge is acquired through personal experience and practice.

How do organizations benefit from tacit knowledge?

Organizations benefit from tacit knowledge through improved skills and innovation.

How can companies capture tacit knowledge?

Companies capture tacit knowledge through mentoring, storytelling, and observation.

Is tacit knowledge valuable in leadership?

Yes, tacit knowledge is crucial for effective leadership and judgment.

How do employees share explicit knowledge?

Employees share explicit knowledge through training, documents, and meetings.

Can tacit knowledge be documented?

Documenting tacit knowledge is difficult, but some aspects can be partially captured.

Is tacit knowledge easily transferable?

No, transferring tacit knowledge is often challenging and indirect.

Where is explicit knowledge typically stored?

Explicit knowledge is stored in documents, databases, and manuals.

Can explicit knowledge become outdated?

Yes, explicit knowledge can become outdated and needs regular updating.

Can explicit knowledge improve decision-making?

Yes, explicit knowledge provides a factual basis for informed decisions.

How does tacit knowledge impact creativity?

Tacit knowledge fosters creativity through intuitive and experiential insights.

How do new employees gain tacit knowledge?

New employees gain tacit knowledge through experience, mentoring, and observation.

Is tacit knowledge always conscious?

No, some aspects of tacit knowledge are subconscious and intuitive.

How does explicit knowledge support training?

Explicit knowledge provides a structured foundation for training programs.

Is on-the-job training a way to transfer tacit knowledge?

Yes, on-the-job training is a key method for transferring tacit knowledge.

Can technology store and disseminate explicit knowledge?

Yes, technology is effective in storing and disseminating explicit knowledge.

Why is tacit knowledge hard to replicate?

Tacit knowledge is personalized and context-specific, making it unique.

Are standard operating procedures explicit knowledge?

Yes, standard operating procedures are a form of explicit knowledge.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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