Knowledge Management in Action
I’ve previously blogged about my little grandson, Fraser, and now at six and a half months, my learning journey continues! He is now beginning his weaning journey, and we are all learning a lot. How on earth did I manage 35 years ago with no Google, no Facebook groups or forums, nor the huge range of books dedicated to weaning in all its shapes and forms? When friends and grandparents are added into the mix, the amount of information and advice for parents nowadays - much of it conflicting - is quite overwhelming.
According to the baby led weaning site this approach simply means letting your baby feed themselves from the start of weaning. I admit to having some reservations around this, and so far, Fraser has been happy to have a little go himself, but prefers a patient adult to put the food on his spoon and help him get it into his mouth. No doubt in a short while he will have mastered the art himself and resemble the picture below!
To me, the food itself is the important factor, and my daughter and I have spent a good few hours batch cooking and already he has had veggie mixes, lentils, Bolognese, chicken and fish. Ready-made pouches are great for travelling and visiting, but mummy’s milk supplemented by home-cooked food and the odd pre-packed pouch is the way my daughter has chosen to proceed.
Tacit and Explicit Knowledge
Turning back to the plethora of information that is available, how do you sift through this and turn it into practical skills and application, from there into knowledge and finally into wisdom?
When I undertook my MBA, my dissertation topic was Knowledge Management, and I spent many hours learning about tacit and explicit knowledge and the challenges with knowledge conversion.
The distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge was first made by Michael Polyani in the 1960s, and it forms one of the central planks of Nonaka and Takeuchi's book The Knowledge-Creating Company. According to them, 'explicit' knowledge is formal and systematic and can be expressed in words and numbers, and easily communicated and shared in the form of hard data, scientific formulae, codified procedures or universal principles.
'Tacit' knowledge, on the other hand, is described as:
So, the preparation of a sweet potato, turnip and parsnip veggie pot for the baby and cooking it in an Instant Pot is an example of explicit knowledge.
- Peel the vegetables.
- Cut the vegetables into medium sized chunks.
- Add the vegetables to the Instant Pot with 250ml of water.
- Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes.
- Blend to a slightly lumpy consistency, adding more liquid if necessary.
- When cool, transfer to small stackable pots and freeze.
- Remove from freezer and reheat when ready to eat.
The explicit knowledge above is codified, is clear and appears unambiguous. But converting this into tacit knowledge only begins to develop when you start to perform the task.
You discover that turnip is really hard to peel and vow that next time you will buy frozen or pre-chopped. Parsnips have that annoying stringy bit in the middle which you don’t want to give to a baby, so they take ages to pare and chop. You now discover that you are left with a disproportionate amount of parsnips and realise that next time you will need to double the number of parsnips.
Sweet potato takes longer to cook than the other vegetables, so what size is a “medium” chunk? Once cooked, you blend the mixture, but find it difficult to judge the lumpiness of the consistency and know you need to balance the benefits of the baby learning to chew against the threat of choking. This elicits another Google search… just in case!
Once the little pots are neatly labelled and stacked in the freezer you have a real sense of achievement and know you are doing the best to give the little one a healthy balanced start.
Then you prepare to offer him his first taste! How do you reheat it? Does it need to be at boiling point since it doesn’t contain chicken, meat or fish? How much do you put on the spoon? How warm should it be? Is the consistency right, or should you mix in some extra liquid? Water or milk? What if he doesn’t like it? And on it goes.
After his first few spoonfuls, I ascertained that perhaps the turnip flavour was a bit strong, but I could not be entirely sure, since this was based on my personal experience of taste, by its very definition peculiar to me, and an example of tacit knowledge. Perhaps it was really the sweet potato that he wasn’t so sure about.
Having learned by doing, some of the steps in the procedure above will continue to be refined and adapted, thus making the task easier next time. They represent an example of explicit to tacit knowledge conversion.
But the deep tacit knowledge, in this case my personal preference and experience of taste, remains a known unknown. Only time, and lots of eating will determine whether Fraser likes the flavour and texture of sweet potato, turnip and parsnip. And, once he is older and has developed the power of speech, he will be able to implement his own little process of tacit to tacit knowledge conversion and let us know just exactly how he likes his veggies cooked, and in what proportions!
For now his little learning journey is one of fun and adventure. For the grown-ups, it’s about a strong sense of purpose and the desire to nurture the next generation, both literally and metaphorically. But it's fun for us too!
"Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad".
Take care. Lead Well