Tacit and Tribal Knowledge: Socially Moderated Sense Making

Before i complete my writing around the Change Curve framework, i’m pausing to reflect and rehearse some language around tribal, tacit knowledge. A common thread that lies through the work around Social Learning, Social Leadership, and my more recent Change work is about how we carry out ‘sense making‘ conversations within our communities and share stories back out into the organisation. We also feed those stories back into our communities. It’s a constantly iterating process: adapting, learning, building on our story and sharing it.

Tacit and tribal knowledge

The notion is this: that we have formal learning, codified by the organisation into process and systems, and held in knowledge management frameworks, then we have totally social knowledge, held within the community and not codified anywhere: tacit knowledge of ‘how it’s done around here‘. Social approaches seek to bridge the gaps between these two: socially held knowledge (tacit/tribal) is often invisible and unmoderated. Formal knowledge is a story owned by the organisation, but not necessarily responsive or grounded in reality. Social Learning bridges this gap by including both formal aspects of learning, but also the semi formal, social layers that surround it. In effect, it opens a door to the tacit knowledge, providing spaces and opportunities (sometimes structured and scaffolded) to surface this tribal knowledge and use it within our sense making conversations.

To close the loop, we need to architect in steps to bring our new ‘sense‘ back to the tribe: to share our stories wisely. That’s why the Social Leadership framework includes ‘narrative‘, as does the Community model and, more recently, the Change Curve. Because if we don’t loop back to the tribe, we are resorting to formal mechanisms. We can’t own (and would never seek to own) the tribal space, but we do have a voice in it. We can actively consider how this knowledge is held and how it can be used as a powerful counterpoint to formally organised knowledge and catalyst for social sense making.

That’s what i’ll be exploring in the next stage of the Change Curve work: how we loop back to the tribe, using storytelling approaches.

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About julianstodd

A learning and development professional specialising in e-learning and learning technology.
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18 Responses to Tacit and Tribal Knowledge: Socially Moderated Sense Making

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