Developing tacit knowledge in organizations: An advanced phenomenological view
Tacit knowledge is an indispensable feature of skilful action and a valuable resource for organizations. Although research has usefully shown that tacit knowledge is linked to a great deal of organizational phenomena, ranging from learning and knowledge management to expertise, decision making, and routines and capabilities, we still lack a refined theoretical account of the process through which tacit knowledge develops. The gap is particularly evident in relation to the role of embodiment and sociomateriality. In this paper, we provide an advanced phenomenological account for the development of tacit knowledge in organizations, focusing in particular on the intertwinement of embodiment and sociomateriality. We argue that tacit knowledge develops the more embodied agents dwell in the living background of sociomaterial practices. As agents become synchronized with the tasks at hand, in particular contexts, they develop an intentional arc, which situates them in relation to the past, present and future, and a phenomenal body, which perceives, moves and is solicited by the affordances of the situations they handle. Such a process enables the development of three embodied microfoundational skills - perceptual, sensorimotor and thinking skills -, which form the basis for the execution of any other higher-order skills at the workplace. We illustrate our argument with several examples from organizational research and show how it sheds new light on the knowledge-based theory of the firm and the associated concepts of organizational routines and capabilities.
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