Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

A Structural Model of Enterprise Managers' Tacit Knowledge and Personality Traits

Academic journal article Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal

A Structural Model of Enterprise Managers' Tacit Knowledge and Personality Traits

Article excerpt

It is widely acknowledged that personality traits and general cognitive ability (g) influence job performance or work success. Although g is a valid predictor of performance in many jobs, there are several limitations and controversies regarding g (see Sternberg & Hedlund, 2002, p. 144). Therefore, studies on practical intelligence are needed to break away from traditional intelligence tests. However, it is important to ensure that these new measures are still representative.

Practical intelligence is defined as an individual's ability to find an optimal fit between him/herself and the demands of his/her environment by adapting to the environment, shaping the environment, or selecting a new environment in the pursuit of personally valued goals (Sternberg, 1999). Sternberg et al. (2000) have taken a knowledge-based approach to understand practical intelligence, stating that much of the knowledge associated with successful problem solving can be characterized as tacit. This means that knowledge typically cannot be openly expressed and is acquired largely through personal experience, guiding actions without being readily articulated.

In many studies on tacit knowledge it has been shown that tacit knowledge can be used to distinguish efficiently between high and low levels of successful job performance (Sternberg et al., 2000; Wagner, 1987; Wagner & Sternberg, 1985). As a new structure for predicting job performance, tacit knowledge is representative of practical intelligence and should influence enterprise management efficiency. Our purpose in this study was to explore the structure of enterprise managers' tacit knowledge and the relationships among tacit knowledge and each of the Big Five personality traits.

Literature Review and Hypotheses

Structure of Tacit Knowledge

Polanyi (1967) was the first to mention the concept of tacit knowledge. "We know more than we can tell and more than our behavior consistently shows" is the best manifestation of the characteristics of tacit knowledge (Toom, 2012, p. 635).

Tacit knowledge can be reflected in the process of learning from experience and then applying it; it is action oriented, and helps individuals to achieve goals they personally value. Sternberg et al. (2000) put forward three main features of tacit knowledge: (a) it is generally acquired with little support from other people or resources; (b) it is procedural in nature; and (c) it directly relates to an individual's goals.

Wagner (1987) proposed a three-dimensional stereoscopic structure of tacit knowledge, comprising: content, involving managing the self, managing others, and managing tasks; context, involving local context and global context; and orientation, involving idealistic orientation and pragmatic orientation. He also developed a model characterized by a general factor, similar to Spearman's g, for academic tasks in form. Wagner thought that general ability or a fund of knowledge would be a better descriptor of individual differences in tacit knowledge than would be a collection of various and comparatively independent abilities or funds. If tacit knowledge can be used to measure practical intelligence, it is possible that tacit knowledge has a general factor.

Wagner (1987) has argued that it is possible that the structure of tacit knowledge changes with career fields. Due to differences in career fields and cultural backgrounds between Chinese and Western enterprise managers, tacit knowledge structure should be retested in a Chinese context.

Enterprise managers' tacit knowledge consists of the skills they use to deal with various specific managerial contextual problems. These problems are usually confused, complicated, lacking specific boundaries and standard answers to refer to, and require the integration of extensive psychological resources (including cognitive ability, experience, management of skills, and personality traits). Dealing with contextual problems at the managerial level is the comprehensive embodiment of these psychological resources, which are difficult to separate clearly and independently. …

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