Why Tacit Knowledge Protects the Firm's Evolutionary Potential (And Why Codification Doesn't)

Thorbjørn Knudsen

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Abstract

The present article introduces the theory of cultural evolution as a possible basis for further development of a micro-evolutionary economic theory. Cultural evolution is Lamarckian and involves social transmission of explicit knowledge by choice or imposition. A possible complementary Darwinian principle operating in the social realm is defined in terms of social transmission of tacit knowledge. According to this principle, termed Local Emulative Selection, some forms of tacit knowledge are not adapted (those which cannot be reached by consciousness) by their carrier. I then identify a problem of adaptation that plagues any form of Lamarckian selection. This base-line problem implies that the evolutionary potential decreases as the possibility of adaptation increases. In consequence, the social transmission of tacit knowledge, which cannot be reached by consciousness, protects the evolutionary potential associated with any form of social evolution. By contrast, it is suggested that a systematic codification of tacit knowledge can potentially corrupt the evolutionary potential of any organisation
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFrederiksberg
PublisherThe Link Program
Number of pages41
Publication statusPublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes
SeriesLINK Working Paper
Number2000-21

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