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Tribal knowledge is information or knowledge that is known within a tribe but often unknown outside of it. A tribe, in this sense, may be a group or subgroup of people that share such a common knowledge. From a corporate perspective, "Tribal Knowledge or know-how is the collective wisdom of the organization. It is the sum of all the knowledge and capabilities of all the people".
Tribal knowledge is any unwritten information that is not commonly known by others within a company. This term is used most when referencing information that may need to be known by others in order to produce quality products or services. The information may be key to quality performance, but it may also be totally incorrect. Unlike similar forms of artisan intelligence, tribal knowledge can be converted into company property. It is often a good source of test factors during improvement efforts.
Tribal knowledge may be one aspect of a group's bus factor. If too many individuals with tribal knowledge leave a team, the knowledge may be lost and hamper the team's ability to work.
Tribal Knowledge is a term often associated with a process step of the Six Sigma process. It is often referred to as knowledge 'known' yet undocumented, such as information that has been handed down generation to generation with no documentation. It is knowledge contained within a group that is assumed to be factual, but has no known data or analysis to verify that it is factual. The Six Sigma community has adopted the term as an analogy of a company. This term is sometimes considered derogatory.
Tribal Knowledge Paradox
"The Tribal Knowledge Paradox" refers to the common belief and management rhetoric that business success is dependent on the knowledge and skills of labor, even as business organization, structure, processes, and management actions conflict with the rhetoric and discourage free information flow.
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When used to refer to subcultures, a tribe— corporate, social, racial, or any other kind— is a reservoir of both written and unwritten information. It is an "energy center" around which kindred minds gather and exchange ideas, traditions, protocols (definition), assumptions, inspirations, experiences, lessons learned, and technology— all magnetized to a core of shared interests.
Tribal knowledge is an offspring of the tribal mind. Much like an individual's mind, it is a constantly evolving center of transient and core information. The core contains fundamental, time-tested values and traditions. The transient information may include incoming and outgoing thoughts and ideas from such diverse sources as divine inspiration to planetary mass media. The transient information acts as a survival/growth mechanism that tends to filter out random thought migrants that don't serve its native purposes and prejudices, while allowing entry to those that do.
- Bertain & Sibbald (2008). Tribal Knowledge Paradigm (Management Simplified). CEO University Press. ISBN 978-0-9741601-3-9.
- Paul Alan Cox (2000-01-07). "Will Tribal Knowledge Survive the Millennium?". Science. 287 (5450): 44–45. doi:10.1126/science.287.5450.44. PMID 10644221.
- Geoffrey C. Bowker (2002-03-27). "Keeping Knowledge Local" (PDF). Cite journal requires
- Dr Deepak Acharya and Dr Anshu Shrivastava (2009-11-19). Indigenous Herbal Medicines: Tribal Formulations and Traditional Herbal Practices (PDF).
- Printer Bowler (2001). The Cosmic Laws of Golf (and everything else). Berkley Books.
- Seth Godin (2008). Tribes. Portfolio, Penguin Group.