Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Tacit Knowledge Sharing: A Literature Review Applied to the Context of the Brazilian Judiciary

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José Roberto Ferretti and Maria da Conceição L. Afonso

Submitted: May 19th, 2016 Reviewed: June 8th, 2017 Published: November 21st, 2017

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.70066

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Knowledge has been occupying the center of studies and research for some time, and this chapter seeks to contribute to the depth of this collection and aims to offer articles that deal with tacit knowledge and the sharing of that knowledge. The observed understanding with this literature review was that organizations are moving from a traditional model that is attached to physical and tangible assets to another, where knowledge, especially tacit, is treated as an organizational asset that, despite being immaterial, becomes valuable and a generator of wealth.


  • tacit knowledge sharing
  • knowledge management
  • intangible assets

1. Introduction

The aim of this chapter is to present a review of literature on the phenomenon of tacit knowledge sharing (TKS). Knowledge represents such a critical feature for the modern dynamics of organizations that Grant [1] interprets it as a central element in the search for a competitive advantage.

This work is the product of a study done between the years of 2012 and 2016 on the exchange of tacit knowledge among judges of the Small Claims Federal Courts of Brazil.

TKS will be addressed within the context of a new era of knowledge or learning society [2], where efficiency gaps are still present [3] and when sharing is assessed as an organizational process. During this research, TKS was seen and treated as a phenomenon, i.e.,: (a) “an established fact that is a science field” [4], characterized by its social interactions, in person or remotely; (b) a display of human knowledge that appears under specific conditions [5]; and (c) “knowledge flow” [6], and “relational phenomenon” [7].

The literature review was structured following an epistemological process defined by the following questions: what historical background has been recorded in the literature that showed an investigative awakening about organizational knowledge? How are tacit knowledge and its sharing registered in the literature? And are there any theoretical propositions that deal with TKS as a significant process within the organizational context? To answer these questions, organizational knowledge was understood as the union of two types of knowledge, explicit and tacit [8], or codified knowledge and personal knowledge [2].

Explicit knowledge is understood as information, also referred to knowledge that has already been expressed, taken from the individual's mind, and materialized into any medium (rock, paper, plastic, electronic), established in any media (radio, television, press, publishing, adhesive, photo, film, internet and its content, Whatsapp, Twitter, homepage, blog). In this sense, according to Wolf [9], explicit knowledge is thus expressed and characterized in physical media (clay, papyrus, paper, plastics, CD, DVD); and digital, in bits. The second type of knowledge, tacit knowledge, the main substance of this study, is the content that is stored in human memory, where it exists and from where stories, moods, images, questions, and answers arise [10].

Besides the introduction and conclusion, this article is divided into five sections, which seek to answer the questions previously expressed. The first section discusses the knowledge society, seeking a better understanding of the handling of knowledge in the context of today's society. The second involves the theory of organizational growth, the resource-based view (RBV), and the emergence of the theory based on knowledge. The third introduces studies done on tacit knowledge. The fourth discusses the sharing of tacit knowledge. The last section points out some works where the TKS is the central topic of discussion.

Lastly, some aspects related to the practice within the judicial system are cited, in part because this work is derived from a doctoral thesis where the locus of the research was the Federal Small Claims Courts of Brazil. Thus, this review can extend its application to scholars and practitioners of the judicial system, albeit as a starting point, of some examples of TKS in the judicial context.


2. The knowledge society

It seems to be more reliable to name the current society, less as the information society and more as a society (or era) of knowledge [11, 12]. It is argued that a transition is underway for an economy and society based on knowledge [13].

The knowledge society that serves as a parameter for the development of this research in the Brazilian Judiciary was designed as a spiral of webs, where each web represents the meeting of networks or groups of people that share their tacit knowledge regardless of organizational boundaries or technological tools. This knowledge has been revived, especially since the 1990s, by knowledge management as a source of competitive advantage and intellectual capital [14].

The appearance and the intensive use of new digital technologies led to new and important mechanisms for the political and social development of nations and individuals [15]. Thus, it progresses society toward an increase in its activities based on knowledge, where the organization and sharing of ideas occur simultaneously [16].

The organizational environment, within the context of this new society, is based more on knowledge than on the societies that represented the Modern Era and the industrial society [17] does not differentiate between public and private entities. In both cases, the development of social relations, among others predetermines the willingness to transfer knowledge. With the increasing interconnectedness and the need for rapid change, people and organizations are forced to share what they know and learn from each other [18].

This transit ends up causing an exchange of intangible assets (knowledge), among people and organizations, it is what Van Caenegem treats as “intangible market” [19] that, although relevant, has not yet found the appropriate space within some organizations.

In the case of the Brazilian Judiciary, especially in the Federal Small Claims Courts, there is still a greater concern in dealing with the visible flow of knowledge (information) than with the invisible flow, or its tacit format. The first encompasses what is produced by the parties, what is stated in the sentences and jurisprudence, in the legal codes and norms that regulate the law, and is registered in some type of media. The second mainly covers all the content that is in the minds of the judges and their staff, in other words, fodder for the first. In general terms, in the judicial rite, the author (or advocate) uses tacit knowledge to explain his initial request and the judge in turn uses “[his] tacit knowledge to analyze the law and give the sentence” [20]. This flow is the most critical process, and, at the same time, the “judicial business” axis. Table 1 below reflects some of these particularities.

Industry paradigmKnowledge paradigmSCFC context
People under supervisionPeople mutually linked as a networkIntense TKS
Information controlAccessible informationIntegrated electronic process systems
People process tangible resources into productsKnowledge workers convert knowledge into intangible structuresJudges and servants who, at certain stages of the procedural rite, gather knowledge of the parties and of the lawyers as aids to the (mental) decision-making process of the judge
Flow of information via organizational hierarchyNetwork flow among co-workersNetwork flow among servers, judges, lawyers, experts, doctors, social workers, judicial units, located in the same city or not
Process bottlenecks arising from lack of capitalProcess bottlenecks arising from lack of knowledgeThere are judges who practice and create an atmosphere of TKS
Production related to tangible productsProduction recognizes the importance of intangible assetsIn the SCFC, the relationship of judges with the parties, with lawyers and with the servers is stimulated for exchanging knowledge
Unilateral relationship with customers via the marketRelationship according to personal interactionJudges and servants' relationship with the parties and with lawyers takes place face-to-face (during hearings and over-the-counter visits to provide information and resolve doubts). The relationship of the judges with the servers happens daily, in person and, almost always, without “scheduled time”

Table 1.

Comparative paradigm of principles of a knowledge organization within the context of Small Claims Federal Courts (SCFC).

Source: adapted from Sveiby [68].

In the interchangeable socialization of knowledge, new ideas are offered and foundation is created for the development of new products and services with the possibility of developing innovative mechanisms and workflows. For this reason, Casselman and Samson [21] point out that the use of tacit knowledge maintains a significant relationship with innovative products and financial performance. Similarly, Gomes [22] while studying the Brazilian judiciary claimed knowledge as being the main organizational asset.

New knowledge and sharing redefine problems and solutions and give new form to the organization and its surroundings. Exchanges alter the amount of prior knowledge and increase the permeability of the institutional fabric, allowing for the movement of knowledge from the inside out and vice versa, by causing individual, sectoral, organizational, or inter-organizational exchanges [8].

In the era of knowledge, there is a diminishing emphasis on the tangible flow of information and the emergence of a new worldview where uniqueness, flexibility, and performance, redirect organizations toward a market that is increasingly closer and more related to the intangible knowledge [23].

Present times require a management style that is aligned with a knowledge flow stemming from a new atmosphere created and developed by organizations to enable the recovery and use of this knowledge, especially the more effective personal knowledge [24], this tacit knowledge favors the emergence of new processes and innovation [12, 25].

Studies done in six organizations of the Asian public sector [16] showed concern for a better understanding of the handling of knowledge. Those organizations opted for increasing efficiency according to the knowledge shared by the most experienced to improve the operational and strategic excellence. The new approach adopted by these six organizations required a re-discussing on how individual and organizational knowledge was (or not) being created and shared, since they saw this knowledge as a fundamental stage of any process that aimed at dealing with change in mentality and behavior.

When analyzing knowledge management carried out at the Department of National Defense in Canada, Girard and McIntyre [26] argued that this process is not characterized as a novelty. However, the significant results highlight what knowledge sharing continues to generate in terms of socialization and an elevated degree of cooperation and learning, something similar to what Kerckhove [27] treated as connected intelligence.

This century, more than others, has compelled organizations to associate their internal structure and work processes to a new asset of intangible nature–knowledge [28]. However, it seems that some organizations, despite being surrounded by information, lack this resource [29, 30].


3. The valuable immateriality: tacit knowledge

In search of the background of what today is referred to as (with relative comfort and understanding) “organizational knowledge”, this research took into consideration studies done by Penrose [31]1 when she analyzed companies in the 1950s.

Organizational knowledge is knowledge that is registered in the media under the control of organizations and especially the one that lies within the people minds and flows according to social, formal, or informal interactions [76]. This type of knowledge is composed of personal knowledge, translated by their experience, know-how, and practices developed individually or from within an environment provided by the organization [32].

Penrose sought to find out if there was something that could differentiate organizations regarding its growth or setbacks. In her studies, she assessed and questioned the possibility of there being something else in the firm's growth that was beyond the organization's traditional view on handling human resources (labor) and products (supply chain). She found out that the administrators' experiences translated by their knowledge were revealed as the differentiating factor from one organization to the other. This experience had been transformed into tacit knowledge; it was not available in the form of a manual or coded; in other words, it was not explicit, to be physically incorporated by the organization; she pointed out that this knowledge could not be acquired in the market and concluded that those professionals could bolster or hinder the development of the company. Penrose [31], consequently, asserted knowledge held by more experienced professionals as a particular resource that could be associated with the growth in firms, especially one's individual knowledge, subsequently treated as tacit [8, 33] that if accumulated over time, is capable of providing more efficient opportunities for organizational growth [34].

Penrose [31] developed one of the fundamental assumptions of this theory that the growth of an organization “is essentially an evolutionary process and is based on the cumulative increase of the collective knowledge.” Something that Inkpen [3] referred to as ‘collaborative knowledge,’ and Nonaka and Takeuchi [8] would later represent it as the ‘spiral’ of the epistemological and ontological knowledge.

In the early 1990s, within the field of strategic management and economics, the theory of ‘resource-based view (RBV)’ is established and the work of Penrose [31] as a notable contribution [35]. For Bierly et al. [36], such theory almost superseded the traditional view related to industrial organizations (I/O approach)2 dealt by Porter 10 years earlier [38].

This RBV theory associates the performance of the organization to the combination of two elements, Resources and Capabilities (R & C),3 it highlights skills and expertise in dealing with knowledge, already showing an early interest in tacit knowledge. This theory seeks to explain and predict why some organizations are able to sustain a competitive advantage and achieve better financial returns.

Considering knowledge as a usable resource in order to improve efficiency and organizational effectiveness [39], RBV appears as a precursor to a new theory, the ‘knowledge-based view (KBV)’ where this asset, knowledge, is regarded as the most strategically important of the resources in a company [40] and the organization as a vehicle, for creation, sharing, storage, and implementation of this source [41].

Kogut and Zander [42], oriented by the KBV, associate organizational growth with knowledge sharing, defining firms as social communities specialized in the fast and efficient transfer of knowledge, especially knowledge that represent know-how, i.e., tacit knowledge [43].

If we live in a society or knowledge era, where tacit knowledge is seen as strategic in the business field and public organizations, what has the literature offered to conceptualize it?


4. Sharing the intangible

Knowledge is the core element of an emerging production model whose most important process is learning [2]. Through this, it is granted by the use of a sensory organ, the description, calculation or verifiable prediction of any entity, fact, thing or reality [5]. Knowledge consists of a “set of ideas and principles that a person acquires through study, observation, or experience and that can be an integral part of one's abilities” [44] and in this sense, it is related to the cognitive processes where assimilation, association, construction, and deconstruction of concepts occur [45].

Kofman [46] sees knowledge as a product of itself, that is, by acting in the search of results, each stage adds more knowledge, as the spiral spinning of “eternal” growth proposed by Nonaka and Takeuchi [8], taking into account all types of processes, including the most basic, such as, hunting, fishing, farming, and weaving [47].

In the framework of organizations, authors have emphasized the knowledge of the individual, tacit, since Taylor's [48] work in the early twentieth century. This interest is intensified when there is a perception of the transition of wealth from that of natural resources to another, provided by brainpower [49], as well as the diversity of concepts and applications within and outside academia4 [50].

For Davenport and Prusak [51], tacit knowledge “is a fluid mixture of condensed experience, values, and insight,5 experimented […] originates and is applied in the minds of connoisseurs.”

Tacit knowledge, or that which accumulates in the mind of the individual in the form of ideas and experiences [53], has been on the agenda, in some way or the other, in the last 40 years [54]. It presents itself as a knowledge that escapes the formality and materiality; therefore, not captured in licenses and patents [55]. It is an attribute of those who know what they are doing and better understand the needs to be met, as a skilled craftsman whose knowledge is highly personal and deeply rooted in his experiences, values, and emotions [56]. It is of a highly personal nature [5759], better shared through conversation [60], and with a more pronounced fluidity in informal environments [61].

Alavi and Leidner [62] understand it as something rooted in the actions and experiences of individuals and categorized it as cognitive (mental maps, beliefs, paradigms and viewpoints) and technical (know-how, skills) that allows for thinking and examining a problem and its solutions by a variety of perspectives [63]. Others treat tacit knowledge as “things that originate in someone's brain: electronic programming, trademark, and marketing force” [64]. Lemos and Jóia [65] translate it as a direct result of experiences, reflections, and dialogue.

Most of the organizational knowledge is tacit and includes intuition, perspectives, beliefs, and values [66]. It is estimated at 80% of the useful knowledge of an organization [67] and when not shared brings more problems or difficulties than useful results [33].

Although it seems like a minor issue for some managers, it must be observed that all the practical knowledge is, in almost all its extension, tacit [68] whose most common application is to solve problems [56]. According to Martins et al. [69], these sets of “tacit knowledge” remain scattered throughout the organization and arise from the professional practical activity.

Tacit knowledge is dynamic, nonquantitative, inherent to the practice, and know-how of people [70]. As a brand of organizational knowledge, it is something created in a complex interaction between people [71].

This intangible asset whose origin is directly related to the creative agents of organizations generates economic value [72] and can lead them to competitive advantages [73].

Leonard and Sensiper [74] linked tacit knowledge to innovation, when the capacity of the human mind (worker's expertise) creates new products, services, and processes. Other authors associate it to organizational performance [56, 7578].

Tacit knowledge is like an intangible mental product, susceptible to sharing and in constant reformulation, comprised of abstract elements (ideas, reasonings, know-how, skills, allegories, models, constructs, insights, experiences, memories, sounds, images, smell, taste, touch, etc.) capable of generating new knowledge and innovative practices.

Considering the existence of this “available” asset, one must also note the importance of its sharing, given that this dynamic has its own peculiarities, such as that tacit knowledge is best shared through conversation [60], has a more noticeable fluidity in informal settings [61], and, in some organizations, its flow is neglected [79, 80].

Table 2 below summarizes key concepts from this section and cited authors.

Key points relating to TKReferences
Cognitive process[45, 49, 62, 64]
Competitive advantage[73]
Experience, ideas, emotions, beliefs[51, 53, 56, 62, 65, 66]
Informality, imateriality, intangibility[55, 61, 72]
Organizational performance[56, 7578]
Personal nature[5759]
Practical activity, know-how[50, 62, 69, 70]
Process of learning[2]
Process relating[47]
Product of itself[46]
Sharing[33, 60, 79, 80]
Solution of problems[56, 63]
Spiral spinning[8]
Topic in agenda of firms[54]

Table 2.

Summary table of the literature and key points relating to tacit knowledge (TK).


5. Tacit knowledge: the invisible asset

Krogh [81] argues that TKS is the main vector when firms want to raise their own value. He highlights the (invisible) transit of experiences and practices of members in the organization that can leverage knowledge creation, increase TKS, and, as result, provide a higher organizational value.

Bierly et al. [36] argue that the wisdom of each employee can be transformed into an organizational wisdom through knowledge sharing, and what Eraut [82] defines as a type of learning.

The essence of tacit knowledge is its sharing and not its control [83]. Any unilateral displacement from tacit knowledge, when only one party is benefited, is not characterized by an interactive action among people [84], and it does not constitute tacit knowledge transfer, which requires intense interpersonal contact [51]. When interviewing a contributor to the Sematech Company about sharing ideas, Davenport and Prusak [51] registered the comment: “We have documents, databases, intranet, web, groupware, whatever you can think of. But representatives and face to face meetings that we have are by far the most important transfer channels.”

Taylor [48] in his book Principles of Scientific Management, although seeking a rational, precise, formal, and mathematical model, the best way, also stated the importance of ferreting out the most efficient knowledge, tacit [85], which was found lodged in craftsmen in order to transmit it to engineers, the current scientists and managers of knowledge. This flow has increased over the past decades [86] and positively affected the development of business innovation [87].

Understanding the nature of knowledge as being more tacit than explicit, as well as representing multidirectional and intangible inter-relations, can serve as a source of advantage for the organization, in the transfer, for example, of best practices and lessons learned [37, 83, 84, 88].

Transmission occurs most effectively when set amidst informal and unscheduled conversations, or through structured meetings and actions that enable the free movement of knowledge [67]. In “an economy governed by knowledge, to chat is to work” [51].

Vieira [89] contextualizes one of those moments when he quotes an experience seen as successful by the civil servants of Justice in the city of Casca.6 “Regular meetings: breakfast held in the dependencies of the Forum, with all civil servants and the Judge, followed by a meeting with a predefined agenda and open to suggestions from staff throughout the group, in order to have functional issues addressed (…) First they all enjoy a delicious breakfast with casual conversations and then the meeting is held. In these meetings solutions to improve judicial services are addressed” [89].

Regarding the public, Carvalho et al. [67] highlight that sharing may lead to a delay of organizational deterioration and an improvement in performance. Caution, however, must be taken in order that this phenomenon is not held down by bureaucratic assumptions of management or personal presumption to understand knowledge as individual property [27].

Van Caenegem [19] when dealing with a possible ‘regulation’ for sharing through a migration of people between companies, he draws attention to the fact that the socialization of knowledge is less of a normative protocol of relationship and more of a free act between people who have valuable knowledge and desire to share it. Leading organizations often encourage the use of tacit knowledge of their workforce [54], considering crucial its transfer within the organization [65].

Although little studied and understood in the Brazilian judiciary, TKS can increase the chances of diffusion of knowledge [90], especially where, “in general, there is no dialogue or exchange of experiences” [91]. Taal et al. [92], however, when examining the phenomenon in the European judiciary, notes that many judges declared that sharing is not a new activity and meetings, seminars, symposiums, and learning events provide the environment conducive to sharing. This phenomenon thus encourages the formulation of policies contrary to the permanence of outdated or dysfunctional routines.

The observation of the existence of a prior knowledge (good practices and lessons learned), for example, can prevent the occurrence of errors of repetition [93], as state judge reported: “In fact, we learn from situations as they arise, we have no strategy (…) errors may occur and occur frequently, hence the difficulty of getting it right from errors” [94]. Even from the perspective of administrative modernization, the transferability of knowledge and management practices gain in sharing a relevant factor and an increasingly intensified practice [95].

The importance of knowledge sharing by tacit means (“face to face” interactions) was reaffirmed by Stefanovitz [96] when dealing with innovation in product development processes. Von Hippel [97] reported that rapid transfers of knowledge actually increase a company's ability to benefit from its own know-how.

From the literature, aspects related to not sharing are also present. Amabile [98] argues that the immobility or inertia of tacit knowledge may be related to lack of motivation of the holder to share. Szulanski [99] analyzed, from the organization's level, its inability to create an atmosphere for TKS; and from the personal level, the lack of interest in the receiver and his/her low absorption capacity, as well as relationship problems with the transmitter. The author perceived an association between these aspects and a possible loss of a firm's ability to build competitive advantage. In communities of practice some causes were identified: fear of misuse; the possibility for personal attacks, and little objectivity concerning the shared knowledge [100].

When dealing with successful companies, Choo [101] pointed out that organizations that have demonstrated ability to adapt to constant change, innovate continuously, and to make decisions that lead toward their goals demonstrate ability to handle knowledge. He noted that an organization with a properly harnessed knowledge has a differentiated ability from others to perceive, discern, and act smart. Thus, the performance of an organization in the era of knowledge is associated with a continuous learning process, generating a model where creativity, innovation, and sharing of tacit knowledge are integrated and reveal themselves in the form of experience.

The United Nations (UN) in recognizing the importance of sharing, points out in its study on innovation in governance the importance of governments working together and better, and so, “knowledge sharing is the first step” [102]. Knowledge sharing can modify the installed mental baggage [103], allows for the creation of new knowledge [104], boosting the organization in its ability to innovate [105], and even grants a greater market value for the organization [106].

With impetus, sharing of tacit knowledge enables the formation of new ideas and knowledge, food for innovation [13]; this sharing being essential to the organization's intelligence [107]. As the whirlwind holds dust immobilizing it, the sharing phenomenon brings stimuli to the knowledge flow. Examples of this dynamic are: the conversation that transfers knowledge [51], the spiral structure [8], and “interpreting communities” [108], which provide new channels, spaces, and organizational arrangements to knowledge.

The sharing terminology encompasses other words such as transfer, distribution, communication, collaboration, diffusion, dissemination, allocation, network, cooperation [109], passing [106], interaction, exchange, and socializing. Because it is a growing challenge for most organizations [18] and because it provides for an opportunity of interpretations [35], there is a growing interest in studying the sharing process, even under the warning of being difficult to transfer [88].

Itami [110] addressing knowledge and the ability to pass it as an invisible organizational asset, points out that, although they are very important ingredients for the development of a successful strategy, they are difficult to measure. Christensen [111] denotes that there are few references in the literature and few companies that include sharing as a key component to increase organizational performance, due to the difficulty of measuring this phenomenon.

Since, it involves intangibles internalized in beliefs, experiences, and personal values, Inkpen [3] stated that the formalization of tacit knowledge becomes complex in certain contexts and difficult to share. Ruschel [90], while researching the Labor Court, found that, although precious, tacit assets were restricted only to the minds of the judges.

The results from the research on knowledge management in public administration [112] follow in the same direction when evaluating the intangible assets (intellectual property assets), and although available in the institutional environment, they are difficult to be qualified and measured. Alvarenga Neto [12] endorses such views, stressing that for being innate to human beings, one cannot share tacit knowledge with ease and spontaneity, however, it is suggested in his conclusion the “urgency to create a set of indicators for measuring the benefits of knowledge management.” Likewise, Sveiby [68] supports the considerations of Alvarenga Neto [12]. Noting that a focused strategy on knowledge can be quantified if an organization seeks something beyond measuring monetary flows, but also flows related to intangible assets such as knowledge.

Longanezi et al. [113] presented some nonnumeric indicators based on idea generation: brainstorming sessions, specific training, number of submitted ideas, and the identification of best practices. Another tool that according to the authors encompasses a continuous measuring process is benchmarking. Regarding this topic, however, they pointed out a limitation that restricts its use, “the unwillingness of leaders to share real relevant indicators” [113].

The TKS concept proposed in this chapter is an interpersonal exchange phenomenon describable and measurable. Represents the interaction of tacit knowledge flows established between people. Can occur within organizations or among them, requires a social environment of trust, and promotes the incorporation of new content with multilateral gains of aggregating nature [114].

The following Table 3 shows some key points concerning TKS and their respective references.

Key points relating to TKSReferences
Communities of practices (CoP)[100, 108]
Competitive advantage[99]
Crucial[54, 65]
Difficulty relating to TKS[12, 88, 110112]
Firms value[81, 106]
Indicator to TKS[12, 68, 113]
Individual property[27, 90]
Informality[3, 51, 67, 89]
Innovation[13, 86, 87, 101105]
Interactive action, socialization[19, 48, 51, 84, 96, 114]
Learning[37, 8284, 88]
Management practices[95]
Organization intelligence[107]
Organizational deterioration, performance[67, 97]
Organizational wisdom[36, 90]
Other words to TKS[106, 109]
Prevention of errors[93, 94]
Sharing as essence of TK[83, 9092]
Spiral structure[8]

Table 3.

Summary table of the literature and key points relating to tacit knowledge sharing (TKS).


6. Some models that have TKS as its core

Ikujiro Nonaka, Japanese organizational theorist, in contextualizing the creation of knowledge in an organizational environment, understood that the interaction between tacit and explicit knowledge was the main dynamic generator of knowledge. He conceptualized tacit knowledge as something difficult to visualize and express, particularly in regards to the actions and experiences of the individual, as well as emotions, values, or ideals. His model gives emphasis to personal interaction, where the key is in the sharing of knowledge [8].

Sveiby [68] introduces his model dealing with visible and invisible knowledge structures. He details among the intangible goods (assets), the competence of employees, customer relationships, brands, management mode, knowledge, and experience. He defines some organizations as ‘organizations of knowledge,’ featuring its employees as ‘knowledge workers.’ In these organizations, intangible assets have more value than its tangible ones, knowledge gains value when it is shared and those that take action in the TKS process end up having an increase in their stock of knowledge through interaction.

Leonard and Sensiper [74] highlighted that collaborators' individual and collective expertise is the source of innovation and a competitive base for most organizations They suggested three applications to the tacit knowledge to leverage the innovation (problem solving, problem finding, prediction, and anticipation future occurrences). They stressed that creative ideas “do not arise spontaneously from the air,” but they are originated by a mental process by social interactions where the tacit knowledge are sorted, grouped, matched, and melted. Still, they emphasized that new solutions are rarely constructed in an isolated fashion and that cooperative productions are essential to organizational development.

Choo [101] states that the construction of knowledge is achieved when one recognizes the synergistic relationship between tacit and explicit knowledge, and organizations need to learn how to convert tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge, becoming capable of promoting innovation and the development of new products. For Choo [101], there are four ways of converting knowledge: through a process of socialization (tacit knowledge into tacit), in other words, allowing the acquisition of tacit knowledge through the sharing of experiences; through externalization (tacit knowledge into explicit) a process in which tacit knowledge is translated into explicit concepts through the use of metaphors, analogies, and models; by combination (what is the word that the author used? Combination, blending, mixing, mixture, matching, hybrid… choose whichever is original) (explicit knowledge into explicit), a process that builds explicit knowledge through the gathering of explicit knowledge from various sources; through internalization (explicit knowledge into tacit) a process in which the experiences acquired in other ways of building knowledge are internalized by the individual in the form of mental models or common work routines.

Davenport and Prusak [51] stressed the importance for knowledge-based organizations to adopt sharing as one of the essential elements. They alerted to the fact that the existence of large numbers of individual tacit knowledge does not necessarily lead the organization to use this knowledge. The importance of organizations turning their attention to the spontaneous and unstructured sharing of knowledge strengthens and encourages the emergence of social movements in favor of TKS. Regarding the inherent informality of sharing, they stressed that conversations around water coolers or in restaurants are sharing opportunities and to designate these moments as a ‘waste of time,’ is part of an outdated theory on the nature of work. They stress, however, that it would not be a sensible attitude to wait around the break-room for an answer to a specific knowledge, but, they reaffirm that ‘spontaneous meetings of minds’ (unstructured transfers) have demonstrated a capacity to generate new ideas or solve old problems unexpectedly. In the culture of knowledge transfer, the authors pointed out, some friction can slow or even block the communication flow:

  • Lack of mutual trust;

  • Lack of time and of places to meet;

  • ‘Not invented here’ syndrome‘7;

  • Intolerance toward mistakes or for needing assistance.

Miranda and Simeão's model [108] proposes the existence of elements, not so discernible (such as, technological communication systems), but of high value for the transfer of knowledge, such as, “a set of knowledge and practices”; the practice of “Granting specific know-how,” or the sharing of “how-to-do”. The authors point out to the irrevocability of human interaction in the transfer of tacit knowledge, setting up an ‘extensive model of communication.’ They argue that in TKS, the process occurs in an interpersonal way, developing increasingly complex structures, such as communities of practice and invisible colleges.

Tonet and Paz [106] consider the knowledge sharing process as composed of four phases: initiation, which are actions that seek to identify and analyze the needs of knowledge, the existing opportunities to employ different or new knowledge, and the tracking of sources where this knowledge can be found; implementation, actions that seek to promote integration between sources and recipients of knowledge; support, actions that seek to create opportunities to exercise shared knowledge and that promote the guidance of its practice with the objective of assimilating knowledge and the development of the necessary skills for a proficient use; and incorporation, actions aimed at making that shared knowledge can flow freely among those who should use it.


7. Conclusion

Knowledge has been occupying the center of studies and research for some time, and this chapter seeks to contribute to the depth of this collection and aims to offer articles that deal with tacit knowledge and the sharing of that knowledge.

This work aimed to bring a review of the literature regarding TKS and to contribute with some definitions related to the topic. The observed understanding with this literature review is that organizations, and to a lesser degree, The Small Claims Federal Courts, are moving from a traditional model that is attached to physical and tangible assets to another, where knowledge, especially tacit, is treated as an organizational asset that, despite being immaterial, becomes valuable and a generator of wealth.

In this trajectory and encouraged by initial questioning, this chapter depicts the search for different references in which the sharing of tacit knowledge was related to a range of organizational vectors covering definitions that go from understanding it as an innovation factor to a strategic component for leveraging organizational performance. Seen by some as difficult to transfer, tacit knowledge is accepted by others as a component of communication flows, where dialogues, social networks, communities of practice, invisible colleges, and even ‘TKS points’ cease to be mere expectations and become powerful channels and knowledge transmission arrangements. Although organizations find themselves inserted into a knowledge society, increasingly tacit, an unequal measure of attention seems to be given to information to the detriment of tacit knowledge.


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  • The original work dates from 1959.
  • The approach (I) Industrial/(O) Organizational refers to a business model valued by Porter [33] in his work: Competitive Strategy, where, to ensure a good performance, the organization should resemble the structure of an industry using one of the following strategies: leadership by cost (selling cheap); leadership by distinction (doing something different); or leadership by focus (focuses on meeting specific segments and markets). Later, Porter [37] through another work, Competitive Advantage, analyzes the introduction of concepts already flagged by RVB, such as the importance of internal skills and human expertise as critical to the good performance of the essential activities of the organization.
  • The literature uses the binomial as “Resources & Capabilities”.
  • Study conducted taking into account the period between 1958 and 2002, mapped out 149 different meanings for tacit knowledge, among them, skills, know-how, communities of practice (CoP), best practice and mental models.
  • Insight is the result of a mental process of analyzing complex situations or problems, featuring accurate and deep understanding of them [52].
  • A town in the state of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil.
  • In the literature ‘not invented here’ (nih) is described as an idea or innovation that was not developed within the company’s workplace environment or that was not conducted by their own internal members, so the solution does not have the ‘necessary characteristics or identity of the organization‘ and thus should not be considered.

Written By

José Roberto Ferretti and Maria da Conceição L. Afonso

Submitted: May 19th, 2016 Reviewed: June 8th, 2017 Published: November 21st, 2017