Tacit knowledge has often been misunderstood in management studies, largely because of the tacitly (!) accepted cognitivist framework and the associated conduit metaphor of communication adopted by researchers. While Nonaka and Takeuchi were among the first to see the enormous importance of tacit knowledge in organizations and systematically explore it, their interpretation of tacit knowledge as knowledge-not-yet-symbolically-represented—namely, knowledge awaiting its ‘translation’ or ‘conversion’ into explicit knowledge—an interpretation that has been widely adopted in management studies, is erroneous: it ignores the essential ineffability of tacit knowledge, thus reducing it to what can be formulated in rules.

I have argued here that tacit and explicit knowledge are not the two ends of a continuum but two sides of the same coin: even the most explicit kind of knowledge is underlain by tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge consists of a set of particulars of which we are subsidiarily aware as we focus on something else. Tacit knowing is vectorial: we know the particulars by relying on our awareness of them for attending to something else. Since subsidiaries exist as such by bearing on the focus to which we are attending from them, they cannot be separated from the focus and examined independently, for if this is done, their meaning will be lost. While we can certainly focus on particulars, we cannot do so in the same context of action (the inarticulate background) in which ...

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