Capitalising on Tacit Knowledge in Work-Based Leadership Development and Cultural Change Programs

By Susan Hall.

Published by The Organization Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Pioneers in tacit knowledge (Polanyi, 1962 & 1967, Argyris & Schön, 1975, and Schön, 1983 & 1987) have stipulated that tacit knowledge is a key driver of work practice. They have also reported that tacit knowledge is generally under-used in workplaces. Recently scholars (E.g. Baumard, 1999) have acknowledged the enormous potential of tacit knowledge for organisations. However, some authors (E.g. Davenport & Prusak, 1998) have contested the notion that tacit knowledge can be identified and consciously used, regarding it as an ‘untappable’ resource. In this paper it is argued that tacit knowledge can be made explicit and used to improve organisations. The paper draws on previous research (Hall, 1994) which developed a method for identifying valued tacit knowledge in the workplace and also produced a grounded theory (Glaser and Strauss, 1967, Strauss & Corbin, 1990) for using tacit knowledge to improve work practice. The paper continues by identifying several methods for converting tacit knowledge to explicated knowledge and using it to improve organisations. Finally, one of these methods is illustrated through a case study of the executive component of a national award winning leadership and cultural change program for educational leaders in Perth, Western Australia (Hall, 2006). In conclusion, I proffer the view that tacit knowledge is an accessible and rich resource for reflective practice that enhances leadership and cultural change in organisations.

Keywords: Tacit Knowledge, Leadership, Action Learning, Cultural Change, Theory/Practice, Reflective Practice

International Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp.61-74. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1019.776KB).

Dr. Susan Hall

Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education and Arts, School of Education., Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia

Dr. Susan Hall is a Senior Lecturer in Education at Murdoch University, Western Australia where she teaches Educational Leadership and also Facilitating Lifelong Learning. She has been exploring the field of tacit knowledge through research and professional learning and leadership programs for over 20 years. Susan is a cross disciplinary academic, having held various leadership positions in universities; as an Associate Dean of Teaching & Learning(Business and Law), Director of a cross-disciplinary, inter-university research centre for social cohesion and women’s well-being, and a Lecturer, training academics (across 40 disciplines) in university teaching and qualitative research methods. She has also run three small businesses: two consultancy businesses in organisational change (specialising in action learning) and one in the retail industry. Earlier, she was a school deputy principal.


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