Understanding Tacit Knowledge in Decision Making

Understanding Tacit Knowledge in Decision Making

Terry Mortier, David Anderson
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-2394-9.ch016
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The “semi-professional” sector of the economy continues to grow and represents one of the largest areas in the economy and within higher education programs. Of these programs, the health professions are showing the largest growth. Decision-making, reflective thinking, critical thinking, and reflective practice have all been described as contributing to professional knowledge development in these professions (; ; ; ). Professional knowledge is a collective term encompassing the explicit and tacit knowledge needed for effective practice. The explicit knowledge in these fields has received extensive study, but implicit knowledge remains largely unexamined. In this chapter, the authors examine the nature of tacit knowledge for semi-professionals in the health field and how it shapes their work environment. Specifically, this chapter presents the results of a study of medical laboratory scientists, and provides Implications for professional development, theory, and further research.
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Decision making in the health professions has been studied through many conceptual models, including “reflective practice”, “reflective thinking”, “knowing-in-action”, “reflection-in-action”, and “problem solving” (Gustafsson & Fagerberg, 2004; Kenimer-Leibach, 2011; Kinsella, 2009; Mamede & Schmidt, 2004). Within these related models, two types of knowledge occur: 1) the know what (explicit knowledge), as captured through the knowledge base and explicit problem solving strategies, and 2) the know how (sometimes termed “procedural knowledge”, or application of tacit knowledge), as captured through a sort of unconscious routinization of performance (Taylor, 2007). In order to understand decision making and how it relates to explicit and tacit knowledge, it is valuable to look at these related conceptual models.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Critical Incident: It may be an event which makes a professional question aspects of beliefs, values, attitude, or behavior. The professional will search through current professional knowledge to make a decision.

Semi-Professional: Occupation which requires sophisticated knowledge and skills, and which, however, is not usually recognized as making autonomous decisions, such as in law and medicine.

Tacit Decision-Making: Making a choice based on knowledge gained through experience that is not easily articulated.

Practice: The doing involved in learning professional skills.

Reflective Practice: A process in which one thinks about prior experiences, current practice, formal codified procedures, and theory to make a choice (decision) or build on skills and professional knowledge.

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