Knowledge Typology Map

Knowledge in the Brain


Knowledge is the perception of the agreement or disagreement of two ideas—John Locke (1689) BOOK IV. Of Knowledge and Probability. An Essay: Concerning Human Understanding.

Locke gave us our first hint of what knowledge is all about. Since that time, others have tried to refine it. Davenport and Prusak (1998, p. 5) define knowledge as, "a fluid mix of framed experience, contextual information, values and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information." Notice that there are two parts to their definition:

Knowledge is information that changes something or somebody—either by becoming grounds for actions, or by making an individual (or an institution) capable of different or more effective action." - Peter F. Drucker in The New Realities

Achterbergh & Vriens (2002) further write that the function has two main parts. First, it serves as a background for the assessment of signals, which in turn, allows the performance of actions. As to the first part, they write, “To determine whether a signal is informative, an observer has to 'attach meaning to it,'” i.e., to perceive and interpret it. Once perceived and interpreted the observer may evaluate whether the signal is informative and whether action is required.

They follow this with, “The role of knowledge in generating appropriate actions is that it serves as a background for articulating possible courses of action (articulation), for judging whether courses of action will yield the intended result and for using this judgment in selecting among them (selection), for deciding how actions should be implemented and for actually implementing actions (implementation).”

Velocity and Viscosity

Two important concepts in understanding how knowledge transfers to others are Velocity and Viscosity (the speed at which knowledge travels and the richness or thickness of it).

Types of Knowledge

Explicit knowledge can be articulated into formal language, including grammatical statements (words and numbers), mathematical expressions, specifications, manuals, etc. Explicit knowledge can be readily transmitted others. Also, it can easily be processed by a computer, transmitted electronically, or stored in databases.

Tacit knowledge is personal knowledge embedded in individual experience and involves intangible factors, such as personal beliefs, perspective, and the value system. Tacit knowledge is hard to articulate with formal language (hard, but not impossible). It contains subjective insights, intuitions, and hunches. Before tacit knowledge can be communicated, it must be converted into words, models, or numbers that can be understand. In addition, there are two dimensions to tacit knowledge:

Nonaka & Takeuchi's model (1995, pp. 63-69) of the four modes of knowledge creation or conversion that are derived from the two kinds of knowledge:

To tacit knowledge To explicit knowledge
From tacit knowledge Socialization Externalization
From explicit knowledge Internalization Combination

Artifacts derived from knowledge creation are facts, concepts, processes, procedures, and principles. These, in turn, are used to help create knowledge in others.

Next Step

data information knowledge wisdom reflecting interacting doing absorbing context and parts context and connections context and whole context and join researching Context Understanding

Click on the various parts of the chart to learn more about that topic

The Continuum of Understanding


Achterbergh, J., Vriens, D. (May-June 2002). Managing viable knowledge. “Systems Research and Behavioral Science.” V19 i3 p223(19).

Davenport, T., Prusak, L. (1998). Working Knowledge. Harvard Business School Press: Boston, MA.

Krough, G., Ichijo, K., Nonaka, I. (2000). Enabling Knowledge Creation. New York: Oxford University Press.

Nonaka, I., Takeuchi, H. (1995). The Knowledge Creating Company. New York: Oxford University Press.