Types of Organizational Knowledge

In today’s knowledge-driven economy, understanding the different types of organizational knowledge is crucial for any business aiming to thrive. Types of organizational knowledge encompass the collective expertise and information that a company possesses, and it is a vital asset that can drive innovation, efficiency, and competitive advantage. This article explores the various types of organizational knowledge, providing insights into how they contribute to the overall success of an organization.

Types of Organizational Knowledge banner

Understanding Types of Organizational Knowledge

Types of organizational knowledge refer to the sum of what an organization knows. It includes the skills, experiences, processes, and information that are shared among employees. Recognizing and managing these different types of organizational knowledge can help businesses make better decisions, improve processes, and foster a culture of continuous learning.

Types of Organizational Knowledge

Explicit Knowledge

Explicit knowledge is the most straightforward among the types of organizational knowledge. It is formal, structured, and easily communicated. This type of knowledge includes documents, databases, manuals, procedures, and reports. Because it is documented and codified, explicit knowledge can be easily stored, retrieved, and transferred.

For example, a company’s training manual or standard operating procedures are forms of explicit knowledge. These documents provide clear instructions and guidelines that employees can follow to perform their tasks efficiently.

Tacit Knowledge

Tacit knowledge is more complex and harder to communicate than explicit knowledge among the types of organizational knowledge. It is personal, context-specific, and often gained through experience. Tacit knowledge includes insights, intuitions, and hunches that employees develop over time.

An example of tacit knowledge is the expertise a seasoned employee has accumulated over years of working in a particular role. This might include problem-solving skills, know-how, and the ability to make quick, informed decisions based on past experiences. Tacit knowledge is often shared through direct interaction, mentoring, and hands-on training.

Implicit Knowledge

Implicit knowledge lies somewhere between explicit and tacit knowledge within the types of organizational knowledge. It is knowledge that is not explicitly documented but can be inferred from an individual’s actions or behavior. Implicit knowledge becomes apparent when someone demonstrates a skill or performs a task that they have not formally documented.

For instance, an employee might use a unique method to complete a task more efficiently, a method that they have never formally written down. This implicit knowledge can be observed and later codified into explicit knowledge through documentation.

Embodied Knowledge

Embodied knowledge refers to the skills and know-how that are physically present in the actions of individuals. This type of organizational knowledge is often linked to physical tasks and bodily movements, such as the dexterity required for certain manual jobs or the specific techniques used in craftsmanship.

An example of embodied knowledge is the expertise of a master craftsman who has perfected their skills through years of practice. This knowledge is deeply embedded in their muscle memory and physical capabilities, making it challenging to transfer without direct, hands-on experience.

Encultured Knowledge

Encultured knowledge is the collective understanding and norms shared within an organization. Among the types of organizational knowledge, it includes the values, beliefs, and cultural practices that shape how employees interact and perform their duties. Encultured knowledge is developed through socialization and is often embedded in the organizational culture.

For example, a company’s unwritten rules about customer service, teamwork, or ethical behavior are forms of encultured knowledge. This type of organizational knowledge is crucial for maintaining a cohesive work environment and ensuring that employees align with the organization’s goals and values.

Embedded Knowledge

Embedded knowledge is contained within the processes, products, and organizational routines. Among the types of organizational knowledge, it is the knowledge that is built into the systems and structures of the organization. This type of knowledge is often invisible but can be observed in how things are done within the organization.

For instance, the way an organization structures its workflows, the design of its products, or the algorithms used in its software systems are examples of embedded knowledge. This knowledge is critical for maintaining consistency and efficiency in operations.

Collective Knowledge

Collective knowledge is the shared understanding and information that a group of people within an organization holds. It arises from collaboration and teamwork, where different individuals contribute their knowledge and expertise to achieve common goals.

An example of collective knowledge is a project team working together to develop a new product. Each team member brings their unique skills and knowledge, and through collaboration, they create a collective understanding of how to achieve the project objectives.

Importance of Managing Different Types of Organizational Knowledge

Understanding and managing the various types of organizational knowledge is essential for several reasons:

Enhancing Decision-Making

By recognizing and utilizing different types of organizational knowledge, organizations can make more informed and effective decisions. Explicit knowledge provides the necessary data and information, while tacit and implicit knowledge offer insights and practical wisdom gained from experience.

Fostering Innovation

Innovation often arises from the combination of different types of organizational knowledge. Encouraging the sharing of tacit and implicit knowledge through collaboration can lead to new ideas and innovative solutions. Embedded and collective knowledge also play a crucial role in sustaining innovation over time.

Improving Efficiency

Managing explicit and embedded knowledge helps streamline processes and ensures consistency in operations. By documenting and standardizing procedures, organizations can reduce redundancy and improve efficiency. Implicit and tacit knowledge can further enhance efficiency by providing practical solutions to everyday challenges.

Retaining Organizational Memory

Organizations face the risk of losing valuable knowledge when employees leave. By capturing and codifying tacit and implicit knowledge into explicit forms, organizations can retain this critical information. This is particularly important for maintaining continuity and avoiding knowledge gaps.

Promoting a Learning Culture

Encouraging the sharing and documentation of different types of organizational knowledge fosters a culture of continuous learning. Employees are more likely to engage in knowledge-sharing activities when they see the value in contributing to the organization’s collective knowledge base.

Strategies for Managing Different Types of Organizational Knowledge

Knowledge Mapping

Knowledge mapping involves identifying and visualizing the various types of organizational knowledge within an organization. This helps in understanding where knowledge resides, how it flows, and who holds it. Knowledge maps can be used to pinpoint gaps and areas where knowledge transfer is needed.

Implementing Knowledge Management Systems

Knowledge management systems (KMS) are IT tools designed to facilitate the capture, storage, and sharing of knowledge. These systems can support explicit knowledge management through document repositories and content management features. They can also aid in capturing tacit knowledge through discussion forums and collaboration tools.

Encouraging Mentorship and Collaboration

Mentorship programs and collaborative projects are effective ways to transfer tacit knowledge. Experienced employees can share their insights and expertise with newer staff, fostering a culture of knowledge sharing and continuous learning.

Documenting Processes and Best Practices

Documenting processes, best practices, and lessons learned is crucial for managing explicit and implicit knowledge. Regularly updating these documents ensures that they remain relevant and useful for employees.

Leveraging Technology

Technological tools such as AI and machine learning can enhance knowledge management efforts. These tools can help analyze large volumes of data, identify patterns, and automate routine tasks, making it easier to manage and utilize different types of organizational knowledge.

Promoting a Knowledge-Sharing Culture

Creating an environment that encourages knowledge sharing is vital. Recognizing and rewarding employees for their contributions to the organization’s knowledge base can motivate others to participate. Clear communication about the importance of knowledge management can also help embed these practices into the organizational culture.


Understanding the different types of organizational knowledge is essential for any business looking to thrive in today’s competitive landscape. From explicit and tacit knowledge to embodied and collective knowledge, each type plays a critical role in the overall success of an organization. By effectively managing these various forms of knowledge, organizations can enhance decision-making, foster innovation, improve efficiency, and promote a culture of continuous learning.

Investing in knowledge management strategies and tools will enable organizations to unlock the full potential of their knowledge assets, ensuring long-term success and sustainability. By recognizing and valuing the diverse types of organizational knowledge, companies can create a dynamic and adaptable workforce capable of meeting the challenges of the modern business world.

Leave a Comment