What Is Tacit Knowledge: How We Can Express It In Our Lives

Throughout history, the study of intelligence and its value in representing people’s skills and knowledge has been a topic of interest. Thus, since the beginning of the 20th century, thanks to figures like Binet, it has been shown that academic intelligence significantly correlates with high academic performance. In addition, numerous tools have been developed to evaluate intelligence and to establish accurate forecasts about intellectual functioning in everyday life.

Moving away from the study focused on academic intelligence, since the 90s interest in intelligence detached from academicism has grown. Some examples of this type of intelligence will be practical intelligence, social intelligence, multiple intelligences, emotional intelligence and tacit knowledge. The researchers affirm that there are similarities between all these proposals, They focus on declarative and procedural knowledge.

It is important to know about this type of intelligence to go beyond merely academics and understand intelligence as a continuum with the ability to be represented in different and varied contexts. Furthermore, these intellectual abilities have been shown to have a significant impact on the psychological organization of people, their quality of life and the possibilities of being more or less successful in life and daily tasks.

Throughout this article, we will discover more about tacit knowledge. Tacit knowledge refers to all that obtained through daily experiences, with implicit qualities of the experiences and problems that we face in everyday life.

What does “tacit” mean?

Although tacit knowledge did not begin to be studied in more experimental or empirical ways until the end of the last century, there are references by Aristotle to tacit knowledge. He defined this as the set of all the information obtained through sensitive experience in contact with reality.

In the year 2000, tacit knowledge began to be investigated, trying to respond to the distinctive characteristics between the most and least successful people in daily life and their tasks. Most of the knowledge needed to succeed in everyday tasks was found to be tacit; unconscious.

But what does it really mean for something to be tacit? When something is tacit it means that it is not understood, perceived or said formally, but rather it is assumed or inferred. Therefore, tacit knowledge is everything that is assumed to be known without consciously explaining it. It is simply part of the daily routines and is put into practice to carry out these tasks. The differences in tacit knowledge between people will be determined by the extent to which they succeed in these tasks, take more creative paths to reach solutions, or the speed or ease with which they perform them.

Characteristics of tacit knowledge

Researchers focused on the study of intelligences other than academic intelligence have shown that no type of knowledge, not even the most explicit, is devoid of tacit knowledge. Making use of tacit knowledge highlights the connection it has with ethical and moral principles, its own culture and personal experiences characteristic of each individual. Next, we will discuss some of the main characteristics of tacit knowledge that make it so present in our daily lives and in most aspects or situations in which we make use of intelligence and knowledge.

1. It is implicit

Explicit knowledge refers to the set of formal information obtained through scientific literature, specialized documents or teaching professionals. They are normally standardized knowledge based on data, books and studies.

On the contrary, when we talk about tacit knowledge, we are talking about implicit knowledge. This means that it is acquired on its own, it is built over time based on the interaction with the environment and its actors and the repercussions of our actions on them. Therefore, tacit knowledge is normally unverbalized, and unemphasized; receiving it from a third person has very little to do with success in practice.

2. It is procedural

Tacit knowledge is focused on and associated with actions and the processes that lead to actions; gives more importance to “knowing how” than to “knowing what.” Typically, tacit knowledge is oriented towards a particular use or a specific context.

By studying the ways in which people feel they acquire tacit knowledge, it is common to obtain crude answers or statements that also do not provide much value or information about the knowledge one has.

For example, if you asked your grandmother how she learned to make such good croquettes, she would probably answer that she did it “by being in the kitchen” or “with the passage of time.” When thinking about how this knowledge is acquired, it is as if the subjects were not fully aware of it.

3. It has instrumental value

Being action-oriented, tacit knowledge has instrumental value to the extent to which it is disposed to achieve goals in daily life. According to this point of view, the more value is given to a goal and the more directly the knowledge oriented towards its achievement is held, the more usable this concrete knowledge will be; It will be easier to put it back into action in the future.

4. It does not replace general intelligence

Tacit knowledge is fundamental in our intelligence and our daily cognition, but it is not a substitute for general intelligence, despite the fact that it is represented in some way in most types of knowledge.

Above all, applied to intelligence measurement tools in general, it is very complicated to establish a way to measure or value tacit knowledge, being such an implicit and unconscious component of the human mind. In the same way, tacit knowledge is not reducible to academic intelligence; They are two differentiated and equally important components.

5. Not enough

In relation to the previous characteristic, tacit knowledge is not enough to have successful performance in all aspects of a person’s life. There are numerous factors for this, among which are the motivation to achieve, the personal opportunities of each person and the general factor of academic intelligence. It is important to take into account all these multimodal and multifactorial aspects when understanding the general performance of a subject.

Examples of tacit knowledge

Next, we are going to propose some common examples of tacit knowledge, so that you can understand this concept more and realize any tacit skills you may have.

1. Ride a bike

You may have heard at some point that “you never forget riding a bike.” After learning to ride a bike and practicing for long enough, we acquire the tacit knowledge to balance, pedal, turn, and brake. Thus, that skill is automated, without having to think about each specific step when riding a bicycle.

2. Drive a car

Similar to the bicycle, once we acquire experience and knowledge of driving, tacit knowledge extends to aspects related to the ability to judge distances, estimate speeds, change lanes and maneuver in traffic.

3. Play a musical instrument

Experienced musicians eventually develop tacit knowledge of how to play their instrument. They play notes, chords and melodies without thinking about each of the small movements they make with their fingers, for example. Tacit knowledge in these cases includes aspects such as technique, interpretation and musical expression.

4. Culinary skills

When time passes and you learn different recipes or cooking dishes, you begin to internalize different culinary skills, such as the amount of salt you should add, the intensity of the heat you should use to avoid burning your food, and the adjustment of ingredients to use so that you do not over or miss food.

What is the difference between tacit and explicit knowledge?

Tacit and explicit knowledge are two distinct forms of knowledge that play crucial roles in organizational learning and knowledge management. Tacit knowledge refers to the implicit, personal, and often unspoken knowledge that individuals possess based on their experiences, insights, and intuitions. It is deeply embedded in an individual’s expertise and can be challenging to articulate or transfer to others. Examples of tacit knowledge include skills, intuition, and personal insights.

On the other hand, explicit knowledge is codified, formalized, and easily communicated in a systematic manner. It can be documented, written down, and shared explicitly through manuals, databases, or other tangible mediums. Explicit knowledge includes facts, procedures, and information that can be easily transferred between individuals and organizations.

The key difference lies in the accessibility and articulation of these forms of knowledge. Tacit knowledge relies heavily on personal experience and is often difficult to convey, while explicit knowledge is readily codified and can be easily communicated. Successful organizations recognize the importance of managing both forms effectively, fostering a culture that encourages the sharing of tacit knowledge and documenting explicit knowledge to enhance overall organizational learning.


In conclusion, we could say that tacit knowledge is part of us unconsciously, but that does not make it less important for our vital development and daily performance. It is important to note that tacit knowledge is not explicit; Yes, you can learn to develop different skills, but the exact way in which each person performs a task is unique and practically non-transferable. No one will cook lentils like your mother or have the same grace when speaking as your friends. 

We all have skills and abilities that make us unique and differentiate us from the rest, and this is what we are referring to when we talk about tacit knowledge. Sometimes we tend to think that everything we do not realize is unimportant or not valuable, but on many occasions, this whole conglomeration of attitudes is what, even if they are details, differentiates us from other people and their ways of acting.

Get 4 Free Sample Chapters of the Key To Study Book

Get access to advanced training, and a selection of free apps to train your reading speed and visual memory

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.