Sunday, March 21, 2010

Knowledge Transfer by Osmosis

In my PhD research with R&D medical scientists, I explored how the scientists conceptualised the knowledge they worked with. A fascinating and unexpected aspect was not so much that the scientists intuitively understood that much of their knowledge was tacit (and unable to be articulated) but that they thought it could be transferred without being made explicit.

That is, they thought that when a novice scientist worked with an expert, the knowledge ‘sort of fell off the expert to the beginner, almost by osmosis’ (you can tell they were scientists!). Of course, the process by which this happened was shadowing, mentoring, observation – but the net effect was that tacit knowledge was seen to be transferred, without having been articulated.

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