Professional tacit knowledge sharing in practice: Agency, boundaries, and commitment

Maarten van Houten*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The purpose of this study is to gain insight into the dynamics and considerations of professionals regarding the sharing of tacit, personal knowledge in their practice.

Adopting a social-constructivist ontology, the qualitative design deploys semi-structured interviews and focus groups. Data were coded, and analysed through interrelating and reasoning.

Personal knowledge is difficult to share precisely, but can be shared to some extent using reflection and stories. Knowledge also provides a position and professional agency, emphasising boundaries and impacting the decisions on interaction and sharing. As such, professional commitment is vulnerable and contextual and, by extension, material becomes part of this interplay of professional practice and collaborative development.

Research limitations/implications
Findings imply that exchange and use of knowledge and material present in organisations are impacted by individual professionals’ autonomy and decisions, which consequently impact on employees’ practice. This calls for research that focuses on individual factors such as autonomy, professionalism and attitudes in addition to organisational and facilitative matters.

Practical implications
Stimulating professional commitment and interpersonal learning is a matter of valuing personal knowledge and practice to avoid protectionism, boundaries and segregated agency. Management and professionals should consider how and why individuals exchange their personal knowledge, paying attention to social structures and individuals’ voices and objectives in forming communities.

This study combines the concept of tacit knowledge with the younger field of practice theory. By connecting personal knowledge to practice, it extends agency to the material world and offers a more individual perspective to knowledge sharing in and between entities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-217
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Workplace Learning
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Agency
  • Knowledge sharing
  • Learning organisation
  • Practice
  • Professional commitment
  • Tacit knowledge


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