The Knowledge Spiral

This page explores how a learning organization moves in a spiral between tacit and explicit knowledge and back again. And, it discusses these transformation processes in terms of people, technology and simulation.











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Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi[1] propose a knowledge spiral (shown below as a Learning Organization Framework) that explores how individuals and groups transform tacit to explicit knowledge, explicit to tacit knowledge and share both tacit and explicit knowledge. This is very relevant to my firm's purpose "from knowledge through simulated experience to wisdom" and the use of business simulation.

The framework differentiates between tacit and explicit knowledge, explores how they are transformed and the roles of technology and people.

Tacit Knowledge
This is the conceptual knowledge embedded in our minds over time. It is the "wisdom" that combines experience and explicit knowledge. So it includes insights, perceptions, intuition etc.
Explicit Knowledge
This knowledge that can be documented on paper, in databases etc.
Internalization - explicit to tacit
This is learning by doing, sharing models and technical know-how - an activity embedded in the use of business simulation.
Socialization - tacit to tacit
This involves sharing experiences with others. An activity provided by our team learning and tutor managed approach.
Externalization - tacit to explicit
This involves transforming tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge. A process that involves dialogue with others. Again an activity provided by our team learning and tutor managed approach.
Combination - explicit to explicit
This involves processing and combining explicit knowledge to integrate it with and update existing document schema. An activity performed as the learners manage the simulated company.

As tacit knowledge appears in three of the four blocks it is not surprising that people are the key players in these (the purple areas). In contrast, the combinational transformation of explicit knowledge (the blue block) is the only area where technology can play a dominant part.

The Knowledge Spiral and Simulation
I see business simulation as a major tool to help develop tacit knowledge (managerial wisdom). As illustrated in the knowledge spiral, the creation and augmenting of tacit knowledge (internalization, socialization and externalization) is a people based process and our team learning approach is necessary for this to take place.

Specifically, internalization involves learning by doing and simulation does this. Socialization involves sharing experiences and this occurs as teams present and negotiate views. Externalization involves dialogue with others and occurs as teams make decisions and receive results.

Also, referring to the "Deep Smarts" article and the possible loss of business wisdom as the baby boomers retire, I see a role for these as people who run simulations or coach individual teams.

[1] Nonaka, Ikujiro, and Hirotaka Takeuchi, The Knowledge Creating Company, New York, Oxford University Press 1995

2005 Jeremy J. S. B. Hall

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