Castillo, J. - A Fourfold Typology of Tacit Knowledge

The Structure of Concern Project compares many theoretical models from many disciplines to the Adizes PAEI model, arguing that they must all be reflecting the same underlying phenomenon. One concern structure model is described below.

Castillo offers a fourfold typology of tacit knowledge to help bring clarity to the contentious field of knowledge management (Castillo, 2002[1]). Debate rages in this field over whether or not tacit knowledge can be measured or even observed, or shared or taught, or whether it is social or individual. With all of this controversy, Castillo suggests that perhaps people are using this term in different ways. The fourfold typology of tacit knowledge is offered as a way out of this quagmire. It is given in PAEI order below:

P – Nonepistle Tacit Knowledge: Truly inarticulate knowing, the result of practical experience leading to implicit learning. Procedural as opposed to declarative knowledge. Skill, instinct or gut feelings. The kind of knowledge that expresses itself in bricolage and improvisatory problem solving. This practical, procedural emphasis makes it a P function.

A – Sociocultural Tacit Knowledge: Socially implicit knowledge of norms, sanctions and expectations. Subconscious inference of how things are done or how one should behave. Unspoken assumptions that allow for smooth interaction among members of a society. Not survey knowledge over whole social system. One need only know one’s own role, not the whole picture. One need not question the scheme to understand it. This is the collective, implicit counterpart of explicit social and procedural coordination. Unquestioned norms and procedures that define what normally happens make this an A function.

E – Semantic Tacit Knowledge: An assumption base of previously shared knowledge, which makes summary statements and allusiveness possible, increasing the efficiency of communications. Specialized discourse communities build this knowledge into their membership, speaking in ways unintelligible to outsiders but transparent to insiders. This permits high-level thought and conversation, suppressing detail and focusing on key elements of meaning. However, the detail is recoverable, so high-level communication among experts implicitly reorganizes vast amounts of related lower-level material. Cultivated expertise and the capacity to use few words to imply huge leaps make this an E function.

I – Sagacious Tacit Knowledge: This is wisdom as it is commonly understood. It involves the capacity to look at a situation and immediately see what it ‘truly is’, rather than what it looks like. This involves a certain immunity to the obvious or surface meaning of an event, and a sensitivity to links, resonance and hidden analogies. It involve a certain cognitive independence from the crowd, but only to better accomplish what the crowd ‘really’ desires due to what is ‘really’ going on. Castillo discusses sagacity in the context of scientific reasoning, but it is exactly the kind of reasoning required for interpersonal counseling, conflict mediation and successful negotiations. Alternate frames of meaning are in play that lead to better outcomes than the more obvious frames that dominate most interpretations of the events. Sagacious tacit knowledge is a type of good judgment in choosing these more appropriate but less obvious interpretive frames. It is a crucial skill for interpersonal conflict resolution or conflict mediation, and is very important for the I function in this connection.

1. Castillo, J. (2002). “A Note on the Concept of Tacit Knowledge.” Journal of Management Inquiry, 11(1), 46-57.
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