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Tacit Knowledge

What meal will you prepare effortlessly?

Think of how you learnt to make your mother’s famous recipes. I want you to flash back to your first time trying it out.

How did it go? While at it, did you feel as if something was missing?

Can you remember the first time it came out perfect? Were you super excited? Did you begin to follow the same style so that it doesn’t require any extra effort.

After years of experience, you learnt the exact feel for the dough, or exactly how long something should be on fire or the perfect pinch of salt. It’s not something you can just write down; you can feel it. That’s tacit knowledge: Intuitive and unconscious.

Tacit knowledge is accumulated from personal experience and context. It’s the information that, if asked, would be the most difficult to write down, articulate, or present in a tangible form.

In the workplace, tacit knowledge is the application of implicit knowledge that’s specific to your company. As employees move from job to job, the application of their implicit knowledge will change based on what’s unique about your business. An example of this is a sales rep who can not only give a great demo but has also learned specific buying signs while talking to prospects.

In comparison to explicit and implicit knowledge, tacit knowledge is difficult to transfer through verbal instruction. To successfully absorb this kind of knowledge and transfer same requires consistent practice, personal experience and mindful reflection.

In his book, Mastery, Robert Greene explained how our brains are highly suited for this form of learning: from watching and imitating others, then repeating the action over and over. Robert called this the natural model for learning.

In an activity such as riding a bicycle, we all know that it is easier to watch someone and follow their lead than to listen to or read instructions. The more we do it, the easier it becomes. ~ Robert Greene.

You can try to explain what it is you’re doing when you are on a bicycle, but this isn’t going to be of much help when you’re teaching a kid and they fall into the drain while you’re telling them to focus and maintain balance. As a matter of fact, what is more important is imitation: focus on the embodied feelings necessary to ride a bicycle successfully.

Love Anuforo learnt French and Hausa by actually speaking it as much as possible, not by just reading books and absorbing theories. The more she practiced, the more fluent she became.

Absorbing tacit knowledge happens through the apprenticeship system. You learn by blindly copying what the master does until you internalise the principles behind the methodologies.

The Apprenticeship System

The Apprenticeship system arose as a solution to a problem: Masters of various crafts needed stability and time to build up skills in their workers. Young people from approximately the ages of twelve to seventeen would enter work in a shop, signing a contract that would commit them for the term of seven years.

In practice, after the abolition of Slavery in 1834, the Apprenticeship System was introduced. The transition from slavery to freedom came with an argument that a now freed slave would have difficulty managing their resources because they were never really quite in charge of their own life before. The British government hoped that the apprenticeship system would allow time for the formation of much of the social infrastructure of a free society and prevent the collapse of the sugar estates by ensuring a continued supply of labour.

Apprentices learn the trade by watching their masters and imitating them as closely as possible. They learnt how to focus deeply on their work and not make mistakes through endless repetition and hands-on work, with very little verbal instruction.

How does this relate to you?

You need to find a master and learn how to focus deeply on your work. The internet affords you the opportunity to learn from the finest professionals. Study their methodologies and shamelessly repeat the process. I know it’s quite demanding but I am committed to doing this too!

No matter what you do — writing, etc. — life is tedious.

Instead of walking away from the tedious path you have chosen, trust your process and get better at skills that matter.

Magical 10,000 Hours

K. Anders Ericsson (1947 – 2020) was a Swedish psychologist who studied expert performance in domains such as medicine, music, chess, and sports, focusing exclusively on extended deliberate practice. He discovered that it took around 10,000 hours for people to excel in fields such as chess, golf, and competitive musical performance.

While his postulation has no bearing on when one wants to learn a new set of skills for a career or embarking on a new hobby, Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers sold the 10,000hour narrative to the world.

Gladwell thinks that in order to arrive at an expertise that’s considered to be world-class, it meant correctly practicing a skill for around 10,000 hours.

As for me, I’d spend 10,000 hours and 10,000 more if that’s what it’d take to learn my craft. I might never attain perfection (if it really exists) but I’m going try if it’s 10,000 hours or the rest of my life. I am going to love what I do and give it my best. I just started. So, cheers to my first 100hours.

Cycle of Accelerated Returns

In The Cycle of Accelerated Returns, Thomas Mayes Jnr wrote: The cycle of accelerated returns. The snowball effect. I’ve watched it with people playing instruments or learning languages or writing. Quite fascinating.

In this phase of your knowledge, practice becomes easier and more interesting. When practice is interesting, it leads to increased hours of practice.

An increase in your hours of practice gurantees an increase in your skill level which in turn makes practice even more interesting.

Three accelerated returns from your cycle:

  • easier;
  • faster; and
  • more enjoyable.


I am committed to publishing blog posts and a weekly newsletter, the MayWeather Series. I’d like to hear what you think about this or any of my articles. Can you relate to any of my narratives? Have you ever found yourself in a new or uncertain place where you have had to trust the process and instinct in order to navigate the journey? Are you experiencing any of these at the moment? Please, share with me. Here’s my email: jibsss@ajiboladiipo.com

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