Silent Knowledge within EMC

Within theory of knowledge, . it is common to distinguish between explicit- and implicit knowledge. Sometimes the term ”silent knowledge is used”. What is silent knowledge within EMC?

Explicit knowledge is typically used for knowledge that can be readily articulated, codified, accessed and verbalized. It can be easily transmitted to others. Most forms of explicit knowledge can be stored in certain media. Implicit knowledge (or silent knowledge) is used for the kind of knowledge that is difficult to transfer to another person by means of writing it down or verbalizing it. It is practical, based on experience, and is gained by exercise and training.


Typical examples are how to learn to ride a bicycle or tie the shoelaces. It is knowledge that is typically learned by socialization and by means of a master-apprentice relation. Without the possibility to gain silent knowledge from a more experienced person, you have to learn it by experimenting on your own. This is both time consuming and costs money. By this reason, fast changes in personell on a workplace in general counteracts the possibility to build valuable silent knowledge. Given this, we can ask ourselves what the silent knowledge typically could consist of within EMC and how we typically gain this kind of knowledge?


Two examples of crucial silent knowledge is time efficient troubleshooting for arisen EMC problems and for choosing the optimal measures to solve such problems. An experienced EMC engineer is characterized by not troubleshooting and finding measures by using a trial-and-error approach, where he/she more or less randomly tests different approaches with the hope of finally finding a solution. Such approach is both uneccessary time consuming and costly, which can be troublesome if it is used to solve an unforeseen EMC problem in a time-critical phase of a development project. Unfortunately there exist examples of how such situations have lead to so crucial delay of a product that it even has affected the market shares for the company.


EMC problems in larger systems are typically characterized by being complex and therefore difficult to handle when they have appeared. The amount of silent knowledge is therefore of high importance for how fast and efficient an unforeseen EMC-problem can be solved. Important questions in such a situation could be where in the system the troubleshooting should be started, what troubleshooting tools should be used and what conclusions should be drawn from the results obtained. Thereafter, one has to decide what measures that should be tested first. One difficulty can be to know how large impact different measures will have in a given construction. Should you try a single measure or a combination of different measures? Here, the silent knowledge can be very important.


Today it is commonly that a company hosts a single or a few EMC engineers. Some companies do not have any in-house EMC competence but is relying on EMC consultants. Regardless of chosen solution it could be of crucial importance of how large amount of silent knowledge one’s EMC resources have. Handbooks, standards, testing data etc are always important parts of the explicit knowledge needed to create good condicitons for EMC. However, without access to the silent EMC knowledge, the preparedness to efficient handle unforeseen EMC problems will remain weak. This can in turn cause unforeseen costs in time-critical phases of a product development. An important part of the risk management within EMC is therefore to ensure the access to silent knowledge when the need arises.

Peter Stenumgaard
EMC editor, Electronic Environment