, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 159-179
Date: 30 Sep 2004

Systems engineering methodologies, tacit knowledge and communities of practice

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Abstract

In the context of technology development and systems engineering, knowledge is typically treated as a complex information structure. In this view, knowledge can be stored in highly sophisticated data systems and processed by explicitly intelligent, software-based technologies. This paper argues that the current emphasis upon knowledge as information (or even data) is based upon a form of rationalism which is inappropriate for any comprehensive treatment of knowledge in the context of human-centred systems thinking. A human-centred perspective requires us to treat knowledge in human terms. The paper sets out the particular importance of tacit knowledge in this regard. It sets out two case studies which reveal the critical importance of a careful treatment of tacit knowledge for success in two complex, technology-driven projects.