Explicit and Implicit

Each person has within themselves a unique set of experience and know-how which remains unarticulated – this is the implicit


This way of knowing one’s world – what makes sense and what does not, and how best to behave – begins as soon as we are born. As a result its foundation is pre-verbal. It grows and matures continuously throughout our life. It is a powerful source of understanding for every human being.

Likewise, each person has the ability to express themselves, to articulate their understanding in forms like conversation, documentation, creating images, etc.  These are the explicit.  The explicit is simultaneously both more portable – i.e., it can be sent from one point to another without the person who created it – and rudderless, because it is removed from its context.

For effective communication, implicit and explicit require each other. Without the  implicit we have no base or internal reference in which to frame a document or conversation. Without the explicit we have nothing to pass along to others.

When you are communicating change, it is tempting to focus on the explicit: brochures, PowerPoint decks, reports, articles, posters, and so on. But, don’t forget to make the time to speak to people face-to-face and voice-to-voice to ensure that your messages are being heard and interpreted in the ways they are meant.

– Seth Kahan helps leaders improve performance. His book, Getting Change Right, will be published in May of this year.


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