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An important distinction from the perspective of the design and deployment of knowledge technologies is that there are two broad classes of human knowledge: facts and skills. Cognitive psychologists have discussed the important contrast between declarative knowledge, “knowing that” or knowledge of propositions, and procedural knowledge, “knowing how,” knowledge of skills. Declarative knowledge is overt, describable, and is ideally captured in the explicit forms of representation such as natural language, formal language, and visual display. Our modern information systems are ideal media for capturing and transmitting such knowledge. Procedural knowledge is tacit, and is difficult to observe or articulate. We can describe and contemplate declarative knowledge, but procedural knowledge just runs off as elements of skill. The fact that procedural knowledge is embedded in the smooth flow of action is a major part of its usefulness, and it is the key to how we can master complex material on the way to becoming highly skillful experts. Novices tend to know declaratively, while experts know procedurally. The proceduralization of knowledge is a major component of skill acquisition. Proceduralized knowledge is just as important in social aggregates as it is in individuals, leading to the routines that characterize effective organizations.

Gary M. Olson and Daniel E. Atkins
School of Information
University of Michigan


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