Unconscious Competence

Some years ago the famous scientist Michael Polanyi commented that “we know more than we can tell”. Polanyi was referring to what he called “tacit knowledge”, that is, human knowledge that is not usually openly stated or expressed. Tacit knowledge is ubiquitous in human culture and all forms of human endeavour

An experienced sailor seems to know just the right moment to tack; parents soon learn to understand and interpret their young babies’ needs without necessarily being able to explain how or why;..........  Tacit or implicit knowledge is difficult to bring to the surface and acknowledge typically because it is embodied below the conscious level in people, systems and cultures.   Western Culture tends to exalt formal, explicit knowledge in the form of degrees, diplomas and paper-based qualifications, while tacit knowledge is the taken for granted underpinning of 
human competence. This kind of capability is often termed “unconscious competence”.

Michelle Stewart,
8 Apr 2015, 22:10