Tacit knowledge as a multilayer phenomenon: the “onion” model

Dan Asher, Micha Popper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: This paper aims to clarify the term “tacit knowledge” and suggests the “onion model” as a way to explore conceptually linked layers of tacit knowledge. The model allows the application of different methodologies to elicit tacit knowledge in each layer, the ability to infer tacit knowledge in other layers from tacit knowledge gained in another layer and the exploration of the dynamics of tacit knowledge among the various layers presented in the model. Conceptual and practical advantages compared to prior works on tacit knowledge are discussed. Design/methodology/approach: The main theoretical and methodological dilemmas discussed in the literature regarding tacit knowledge are reviewed. The “onion model” presented in this paper suggests an approach and methodologies that address the issues raised in the literature. The different layers of the model are demonstrated by prior research studies. Findings: The “onion model” discussed in this study points to various layers of tacit knowledge and the links among them, allowing a research-based approach, as well as various practices. Research limitations/implications: This paper discusses different layers of tacit knowledge relying on previous works that have dealt with these layers independently. The model as a whole and the dynamics among the layers are yet to be empirically investigated. Practical implications: The “onion model” provides a conceptual framework that can be used for research and diagnosis aimed at exploring tacit knowledge that can serve individual and organizational development. Originality/value: The approach discussed in this paper addresses some major problems discussed in the literature on tacit knowledge.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-275
Number of pages12
JournalLearning Organization
Issue number3
StatePublished - 13 Jun 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited.


  • Knowledge management
  • Knowledge organizations
  • Knowledge processes
  • Organizational learning
  • Organizational performance
  • Tacit knowledge

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management


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