Transfer of tacit knowledge
By Santosh K. Digal
A famous heart surgeon at the twilight of life and career called his young son who had just graduated from a prestigious medical school, and said, “Please do not run after money, make sure money runs after you. And this should be your springboard of life.”
After a pause, he continued that the father’s fame is no guarantee that the son would be famous. “I cannot pass my tacit knowledge and experience to you in any way. You have to build your life with grit and grace over a period of life,” the father added.
The son wanted to know what the old man meant. The senior explained, “As you are about to plunge into medical professional practice, please keep in mind that earning money should not be your top priority in life, though you need money to survive for yourself and your family; rather, serving patients (both rich and poor) with love, compassion, commitment and competence, should be your mantra.” The son agreed silently.
The father also told the son not to be reluctant or hesitant to treat a poor patient who cannot afford to pay.
As a physician, the son will always get enough patients in life as long as he does his job with honesty and trust in God’s providence, the senior doctor added.
“In this way, in the long run, God will bless you always. On account of this, money may run after you…. You should not run after money,” the father said.
For 20 years of his practice the son followed his father’s advice religiously. By that time, the father had passed away.
By then the son had already carved his own niche and become a famous heart surgeon like his father. Medical schools and hospitals in and around the city vied with each other to get him on their board of directors, a medical professor, and practitioner.
Patients loved him as he treated them free. He continued his profession in humility and being generous to his patients, in the light of his late father’s guiding adage.
After a few decades of medical professional practice, he becomes almost millionaire—all earning by his honest means and often waiving his professional fee to poor patients.
“My father did not transfer his tacit knowledge, experience, and expertise that he had in his life to me, but he passed his invaluable mantra that enabled me to be grounded in my life—as a person and physician,” the son said.
This anecdote may not impress or inspire everybody. What insight one may note from the story is how parent’s life principles become their children’s life-giving for others in and through values that parents try to impart an impact in the lives and careers of their offspring. Transfer of tacit knowledge from parents to children difficult, but values and principles are.