Many knowledge management texts draw a distinction between explicit and tacit knowledge. With one being knowledge in someone’s head and the other being knowledge that is written down somewhere. Frankly, I find these terms so abstract that I have forgotten which term is which.
And, I think this is the wrong distinction to make. The knowledge is either findable by your computer or it is not findable by your computer.
By finding the knowledge I mean finding the knowledge itself or finding the person who has the knowledge. Certainly all knowledge within a firm is not going to be transferred into a form that is findable by a computer. That is why it is important to identify subject matter experts and make them findable by a computer search.
Knowledge written down on a piece of paper and thrown in a file does not do anyone any good. I have first-hand experience at this. (I think everyone has first-hand experience at this). Last week, I was cleaning up a stack on my desk and found some hand-written notes from a conference I went to last year. It was good stuff, but it had been lost. (One of the reasons I now blog conferences.) I had some vague recollections of the conference, but the written notes brought back a whole waterfall of recollections, action items and information. The notes were written but had not done me any good until I accidentally stumbled on them. They certainly were not doing any good for the rest of my firm.
A file saved on your local computer does not make the knowledge in that file findable by anyone but you.
If the knowledge is not findable by my computer, then I have to know it myself or have to send out a blast email asking if anyone knows about it. Of course the responses end-up in my email or voice mail, being findable only by me.