Aug 14, 2007

Transmission of tacit knowledge

Today I read a post where Jon Udell writes the following about an experience learning a new way to write code in python.

...I’ll argue that this principle of transmission of tacit knowledge is profound, and can apply to almost any discipline that’s subject to online narration.

There are all sorts of obvious reasons to narrate the work that we do. By doing so we build reputation, we attract like-minded collaborators, we draw constructive criticism, and we teach what we know.

Sometimes there’s also a non-obvious reason. It’s possible to teach what we don’t know that we know.
One of the key benefits I see from blogging is sharing ways that I do things and in-turn learn from others how they do things. For example, I recently setup a Subversion server. It was my second attempt and although my first attempt was unsuccessful, my second attempt went much more smoothly. Today, I also read a post by Scott Lemon where he shared his experience setting up a Subversion server in Apache. I learned that there were a lot of resources on the web that I didn't find that could have helped me.

I have made it a practice to read my RSS feeds in Google Reader for about an hour every morning. I have found that this is the most effective way for me to learn new things and, as this post suggests, acquire more tacit knowledge.

I believe that any manager of a technology team should encourage this. It sharpens skills and improves innovation. There have been many times that I have read something and it has given me new ideas on how to approach a problem that I'm facing in my work. This gives me the advantage that I need to stay competitive.

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