In Search of the Golden Mean: The Ambivalence of Knowledge Explication


  • Georg Hans Neuweg
  • Stefan Fothe


tacit knowing, implicit knowledge, know-how, knowledge management, knowledge explication, knowledge elicitation, explication optimum, contingency theory, Michael Polanyi, Gilbert Ryle


Knowledge Management (KM) tends to regard the explication of knowledge as thoroughly positive. In this paper, we argue that this attitude rests on misconceptions regarding the nature of implicit knowledge and knowledge explication. Rather than following undifferentiated imperatives to maximise the amount of explicit knowledge, practitioners of KM are better off considering the ambivalent effects of knowledge explication. For this purpose, we suggest applying the Tacit Knowing View (Neuweg, 2004) and Contingency Theory to the problem of determining the right level of explication. The paper is divided into four parts. In the first part we trace KMs need for the explication and formalisation of knowledge. In the second part, we address theoretical misconceptions. First, we apply Ryles finding that sloppy language use may lead to illegitimate assumptions toward explication. Secondly, we argue that, albeit superficial references to the work of Polanyi can be found throughout KM, actual epistemological positions rather seem to follow Popper. In the third part, we systematise limitations, problems, and side effects of explication. In the fourth part, we suggest the heuristic concept of explication optima as a framework for developing KM activities.



1 Dec 2011



General Paper