Concept & types of Knowledge:

Knowledge is complex in nature. It is closely linked to doing and implies know-how and understanding. The knowledge possessed by each individual is a product of his experience and encompasses the norms by which he evaluates new inputs from his surroundings. It derives the major branch of philosophy-epistemology- studies the nature of knowledge. In the rest of this article, we are going to present to you the basic Concept & Types of Knowledge.

Definition of Knowledge:

The term knowledge is often used to refer to a body of facts and principles accumulated by mankind in the course of time. Knowledge is the capacity for performing work. Some of the essential definitions of the knowledge are being;

Dictionary meaning of the term knowledge is “state of knowing, awareness and understanding with familiarity gained through experience or study or education.”

Plato defines knowledge as justified true belief.

“Knowledge as the insights, understanding, and practical know-how that we all possess- is the fundamental resource that allows us to function intelligently.” (Wiig – 1996)

“Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, expert insights that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. In organizations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational routines, practices, and norms.” (Davenport and Prusak – 1998)

In light of the above definitions, we may say that knowledge is perceived as applied information; or meaningful information; or the understanding, awareness, familiarity acquired through study, investigation, observation, or experience over the course oftime.

Types of Knowledge - Concept & Types of Knowledge

Philosopher typically divides knowledge into three categories:

1. Personal knowledge: Personal knowledge, which exists tacitly in people’s minds. It is knowledge by acquaintance.
2. Procedural knowledge: Procedural knowledge is related to the procedure to carry out an action. Knowledge about how to do something is procedural knowledge. It is instruction oriented.
3. Propositional knowledge: Propositional knowledge is knowledge of facts.

Machlup (1980) categorizes knowledge into five types:

1. Practical knowledge: Practical knowledge, which is useful in an individual’s work, decisions, and actions. Besides, professional knowledge, business knowledge, and political knowledge, etc. regarded as practical knowledge.
2. Intellectual knowledge: Intellectual knowledge, which satisfies intellectual curiosity.
3. Small-talk and pastime knowledge: Small-talk and pastime knowledge, which satisfies non-intellectual curiosity or the desire for light entertainment.
4. Spiritual knowledge: Spiritual knowledge, which relates to religion and mystical experiences.
5. Unwanted knowledge: Unwanted knowledge, which is outsight one’s interests knowledge and is usually accidentally acquired.

Smith (2000) summarizes knowledge into three types:

1. Public knowledge: which is explicit, taught and shares routinely.
2. Shared expertise knowledge: which is shared by knowledge workers in their work.
3. Personal knowledge: which exists tacitly in people’s minds. It is knowledge by acquaintance.

Four types of economically significant knowledge are:

1. Know-what: Know-what refers to knowledge about facts. Here, knowledge is close to what is normally called information.
2. Know-why: Know-why refers to scientific knowledge of the principles and laws of nature.
3. Know-how: Know-how refers to skills or the capability to do something.
4. Know-who: Know-who involves information about who knows what and who knows how to do what.

In the field of KM(Knowledge Management), two broad categories of knowledge are: 

1. Explicit knowledge: can be easily expressed, articulated, or encoded (codified), gathered, organized, transferred, or shared with others through social interaction. Examples of such knowledge are trade secrets, standards, patents, manuals, online databases, drawings, photographs, etc.

Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) defined explicit knowledge that can be expressed in words and numbers and can be easily communicated and shared in the form of hard data, scientific formulae, codified procedures, or universal principles.

According to Badruddin (2004) – explicit knowledge could be expressed in words and numbers and shared from data, scientific formula, product specifications, manuals, universal principles, and so forth. It can be created, written down, transferred, or transmitted among organizational units verbally or through computer programs, patents, diagrams, and information technologies.

According to Polany (1966) – Explicit knowledge or ‘codified’ knowledge refers to knowledge that is transmittable in some systemic language — such as words, numbers, diagrams, or models. As such, it is easily transmitted orally and in written or electronic form. It can also easily be manipulated and stored in various databases and repositories.

Explicit knowledge is the knowledge that has been explained, recorded, or documented. Explicit knowledge is packaged, easily codified, transferable, and communicable. Explicit knowledge, being available in the public domain, has also been called public knowledge or information.

2. Tacit knowledge (implicit knowledge): is personal, embedded in the minds of people. It is intuitive, contextual, linked to experience and memories, and is difficult to formalize, document, and communicate. Such knowledge is difficult to identify, quantify, and convert into real value unless a structured approach is not adopted to manage such knowledge. It is something that we do possess unconsciously and most of the time we are not aware of its existence. Such knowledge is self-acquired through experience, reading, learning, training, and interaction. It is different from the knowledge available in written records, as it is hidden in minds and processes in the form of expertise, skills, and competencies, normally gained through experience, socialization, and interaction with the environment. An example of tacit knowledge at work would be the reference librarian who on the basis of his/her experience can tell from where to find the best explanation of “conservation and preservation” or “lexicography”.

Polanyi (1966) defines tacit knowledge as personal, context-specific, and, thus, not easily visible and expressible — nor easy to formalize and communicate with others. Individuals may know more than they are able to articulate. Tacit knowledge is based on subjective insights, intuitions, and hunches and is deeply rooted in an individual’s actions and experience and ideals, values, and emotions.

Eucker (2007) states that tacit knowledge consists of ‘know-how’, ‘know-what’, and ‘know-who’ that someone acquires and accumulates through practical experience, that they are often not even aware that they possess and that cannot really be learned in any other way. In fact, it is rare to find solutions to complex problems that are not dependent upon a significant amount of tacit knowledge.

According to Kirk (1999) – Tacit knowledge (also referred to as informal knowledge) is subjective and experienced-based. It is highly personal, consisting of technical skills and “know-how” as well as having cognitive dimensions such as implicit mental models and beliefs which shape one’s perception of the world.

Tacit knowledge, sometimes known as implicit knowledge, is unspoken and hidden. It is the expertise and assumptions that individuals develop over the years that may never have been recorded or documented.

Tacit knowledge is very important in the organizational context, where it is embedded in the systems, processes, tools, and techniques that people create by utilizing their experience gained over a long period of time. The in-corporate sector, it has to be gathered and preserved for furthering the organization’s objectives, otherwise, a great deal of such knowledge is lost when people leave the organization in search of better job opportunities due to lack of “on the job” incentives.