Many knowledge management texts draw a distinction between explicit and tacit knowledge. With one being knowledge in someone’s head and the other being knowledge that is written down somewhere. Frankly, I find these terms so abstract that I have forgotten which term is which.
And, I think this is the wrong distinction to make. The knowledge is either findable by your computer or it is not findable by your computer.
By finding the knowledge I mean finding the knowledge itself or finding the person who has the knowledge. Certainly all knowledge within a firm is not going to be transferred into a form that is findable by a computer. That is why it is important to identify subject matter experts and make them findable by a computer search.
Knowledge written down on a piece of paper and thrown in a file does not do anyone any good. I have first-hand experience at this. (I think everyone has first-hand experience at this). Last week, I was cleaning up a stack on my desk and found some hand-written notes from a conference I went to last year. It was good stuff, but it had been lost. (One of the reasons I now blog conferences.) I had some vague recollections of the conference, but the written notes brought back a whole waterfall of recollections, action items and information. The notes were written but had not done me any good until I accidentally stumbled on them. They certainly were not doing any good for the rest of my firm.
A file saved on your local computer does not make the knowledge in that file findable by anyone but you.
Sending out an email makes the knowledge potentially more findable. But, you as the sender and all of recipients are going to end up keeping that email in different places, in different folders with different meta-data. As the sender, the email ends up in your list of sent items. As the recipient, the email lands in my inbox. Then it may stay there, or I may transfer it to a different location. Or I may delete it. Most likely any two recipients are going to treat the email in completely different ways. Email makes it more findable, but the parties to the email end up having to find it in different ways.
If the knowledge is not findable by my computer, then I have to know it myself or have to send out a blast email asking if anyone knows about it. Of course the responses end-up in my email or voice mail, being findable only by me.