Article++ (The knowledge-creating company – Ikujiro Nonaka)

Japanese Management is well known for its exotic uniqueness to bring about success in organizations. Many of the common principles in Japanese Management appear alien to roughly speaking the Western school of Management. In the context of Knowledge Management, there are several new ideas based on demographic traditions besides other factors in the Orient. Nonaka starts off this article by focusing on the importance of leveraging tacit knowledge. There is a strong emphasis on corporate knowledge culture and the presence of an enterprise knowledge embedded in its human resource.

However, such a philosophy to harness tacit knowledge from employees is a far greater concept to implement keeping in mind the inherent challenge to explicitize it. However, Nonaka together with Takeuchi visualized such a process known as ‘The Spiral of Knowledge’ or the SECI Model.

The Spiral of Knowledge

In this article, Nonaka further reinforces the spiral model of knowledge flow and an important question which arises in the context of a knowledge creating organization is what defines knowledge creation? And where does knowledge originate from?

According to Nonaka, ‘new knowledge begins from chaos’, and chaos here is further elaborated to be a controlled tool by senior management to invoke the thought process within employees ‘against’ an ambiguous or vague corporate metaphor. According to him, an organization should float around a metaphor which defines a motto for the organization but at the same time signals a vague or ambiguous concept which encourages employees to think about the overall process and try to make meaning out of it. He explains that any corporate motto holds a specific and different meaning for each employee due to the different functional contexts of the worker. And this differing meanings brings the essence of debate and questioning which ultimately leads to a creative process. Nonaka strengthens this hypothesis by quoting several examples from notable organizations which employed similar tactics and were successful in creating not just new knowledge but improving creativity of their employees. More specifically, knowledge creation for Nonaka is the transfer of tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge by utilization of tacit knowledge into an innovating process.

Besides metaphors, Nonaka also advocates the use of analogies if an organization finds metaphors to be more confusing for her employees. In his words, “An analogy is an intermediate step between pure imagination and logical thinking”. Sometimes these analogies are an evolved form of a metaphor, further fine tuned into more standardized, less context sensitive meaning and thus abstracts the tacit knowledge which the SECI model termed as ‘Conceptualization’. Organizations which have a fairly well defined and successful analogy in place lead the way to a model which represents the tacit knowledge of an organization in place.

One notable difference between Nonaka’s theme to that of Drucker’s is redundancy. Where Drucker feels that redundancy is a mere burden and a bottleneck and is usually a byproduct of too many layers of middle management, Nonaka finds redundancy to be a chief component to harness tacit knowledge from internalization through to conceptualization if visualized in his Spiral Knowledge Model.

Redundancy brings organizations to experience a concept in different contexts and by different functional teams. Thus a holistic view of the concept is created. Although redundancy does not have to be the way Drucker or others despise it, it creates a “common cognitive ground”. Such redundancy can be created by frequent job rotation or by common access to corporate knowledge base where the job of knowledge creation is not confined to particular teams or individuals but is everyone’s responsibility. However, according to Nonaka, this does not mean that there are no specific job roles within a knowledge creating company, but knowledge creation is not confined at a single locaiton.

Bottom line is that knowledge management is all about managing tacit knowledge and communicating it across the enterprise in an endless repetitive cycle.

    • Dr Om Kumar Harsh
    • June 26th, 2009

    Recent work of mine suggests that knoledge is a three dimensional process with reusability as an third axis or dimension. So the Knowledge conversion process is a cone not the spiral. Please see the following details:

    Please find a research paper entitled ” Three Dimensional Knowledge Management And Explicit Knowledge Reuse, O. K. Harsh ” which is the original work on KM model. This work is the extension of Nonaka model from two to three dimension by proposing knowledge reuse as an independent quantity as a third dimension. Your valuable comments and suggestions are invited. The paper has published in the Journal of Knowledge Management Practice and may be found on the following site:

    • Dr Om KUmar Harsh
    • July 21st, 2010

    A more interesting three dimensional knolwedge strategies could further strengthen the Model of O. K. Harsh. Dr Harsh has found the four Knolwege Managemetn and four Knowledge Reuse Styles in the three dimesnions. After the extensive applications of SPSS, proposal about these three styles have been proposed

    • Dr Om Kumar Harsh
    • March 26th, 2011

    A three dimensional model on data, information and knowledge including their Re-usabilities
    could be the more interesting to the readers?
    Please look at the paper Reusable Data, Information, Knowledge And Management Techniques:

    In this paper Useful discussion on several issues such as reusable knowledge creation, reusable knowledge validation, and reusable knowledge application, reusable knowledge distribution and reuse knowledge presentation have been explored. Analysis of the knowledge component composition, reuse, tacit and explicit knowledge and metadata has also been presented. The present work has value for knowledge management and quality enhancement.

  1. March 20th, 2011
  2. February 24th, 2013
  3. March 21st, 2013

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