Posts Tagged ‘Knowledge’

SECI: a Model of Dynamic Organizational Knowledge Creation


To understand how knowledge is spread throughout an organization, we need to understand the SECI modell by Prof. Ikujiro Nonaka (Hitotsubashi University). When Prof. Ikujiro Nonaka introduced the SECI model (Nonaka & Takeuchi 1996) it became the cornerstone of knowledge creation and knowledge transfer theories. He proposed four ways to combine and convert knowledge types, showing how knowledge is shared and created in organizations. The model is based on two types of knowledge – explicit knowledge and tacil knowledge. Explicit knowledge is visible knowledge, it is easily explained, quantified and documented; tacil knowledge is unseen and grows with habits and hands-on work, but is not easy to share or document it.
The Seci modell
The model also consists of 4 different process situations: Socialization, Externalization, Combination and Internalization.

  1. Socialization
    This process focuses on tacit to tacit knowledge transfer. It’s done when knowledge is passed on through practice, guidance, imitation and observation. This is when someone who is learning a new skill can interact with a more experienced person, ask questions and observe. This occurs in traditional environments where a son learns the technique of wood craft from his father by working with him (rather than reading books or manuals on wood working).
  2. Externalization
    This process focuses on tacit to explicit knowledge transfer. Externalization is about making an internal understanding more quantifiable like writing documents and manuals, so that the knowledge can be spread more easily through the organization. The processes of externalization are good at distributing knowledge for repetitive work or processes. An expert describes different parts so that readers can understand “if this happens do the following in order to succeed”.
  3. Combination
    The process of combination is about transforming explicit knowledge to another person’s explicit knowledge. A typical case is when a financial department collects all financial information from departments and consolidates this information to provide an overall profile of the company.

  4. Internalization
    The process of internalization is about transforming explicit knowledge to tacit knowledge. Through reading books, manuals or searching on the web, explicit knowledge can be learned.

There is a spiral of knowledge involved in their model, where the explicit and tacit knowledge interact in a continuous process. This process leads to creation of new knowledge. The central thought of the model is that knowledge held by individuals is shared with other individuals so it interconnects to a new knowledge. The spiral of knowledge or the amount of knowledge grows all the time as more rounds are done in the model.

The basis of all change is that the need for change is known and communicated. If it’s not on the agenda it will probably not be valued. If spreading of knowledge is important for your organization, talk about it with the people involved.

Why is Creativity More Important than Knowledge?

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Answer:  because software development is more of an exploratory journey than looking up information or formulas in a table. You will of course need to know your tools so you can deliver but in a world where more and more people have university degrees and anything can be looked up on the Internet, the value of knowledge (What, Why and How) decreases.

If software development was more like traditional engineering, you would look for solutions in books or on the net. But repetitive needs are already boxed like Microsoft Office or enterprise systems like SAP which are available in the store.


The Knowledge Cake

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A project is a temporary organization created to help the line organization. This means that the knowledge for a specific project comes from the line organization. When a project starts, the knowledge of what will be accomplished often looks like this. If you doesn’t have access to a line organization that have any previous knowledge about the domain it’s becomes much harder. Then interviewing future end users becomes the only way to secure that you are on the right way.

The Knowledge Cake

When the project ends, we have identified many of the things we didn’t know before the start of the project. At the end of a project, it is important to transfer the acquired knowledge back to the line organization or the one that will work with the system. The big challenge is spread the knowledge about why things become in a specific way, often a lot of considerable has been taken into different solutions and when a specific solution is chosen the team often know why it couldn’t be done in 9 out of 10 other probable solutions. Often only How and What are documented and why is forgotten and never documented, and it’s often the question of “why” you comes back for when rebuilding part of the system in future development. The question of how and what are quite easily documented in software development. You can look on the database or the source code. It is therefore a great idea to sum up how you got to the specific solutions after design workshop so the question of why also can be traceable.

Aristotle’s three types of knowledge

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Aristotle was a Greek philosopher (384 BC – 322 BC) and is one of the most important founding figures in western philosophy. He systemized a lot things and created comprehensive system of the western philosophy within the field of moral, logic, science and politics. He classified knowledge in three different types Episteme (scientific), Techne (Skill and crafts) and Phronesis (Wisdom).


  • Episteme (Scientific knowledge) Episteme means “to know” in Greek. This is the kind of knowledge you get from for example books it tells you about the world and how it works, this is the theory of something.  This is explicit knowledge that is easy to store and transmit to others. Good example of explicit knowledge (Episteme) is Wikipedia or encyclopedias.
  • Techne (Skill and craft knowledge) The greek work Techne translates to craftsmanship, craft, or art. People are not often aware of the knowledge they possess or how it can be valuable to others. This kind of knowledge is not easy to share; you have to learn it yourself by practice. A common example is the ability to ride a bicycle if you have an easy written instruction set on how to ride a bicycle please send me a email so can I forward it to my four year old son. This type of knowledge is of very common in software development and comes with experience.
  • Phronesis (Practical wisdom) Phronesis means practical wisdom in Greek, Aristotle distinguishes between sophia and phronesis. Sophia (translated to wisdom) is the ability to think well about the nature of the world, discovering systems why the world is the way it is. Sophia is the ability to find universal truths and theories. Phroneses is the ability to realize how a specific goals or value is reached. Phroneses includes aspects of a situation, critical analytical reflection and for scrutinizing knowledge systems, practices and impacts of goals which easily are take for granted.  When having the needed “Episteme” and “Techne” of a specific domain you can develop the capability to find the “right answer” in a particular situation, which is what phronesis is about.

One of the interesting observation is that there is some knowledge that are easy to learn throw studies some that you have to practice yourself and some kind of knowledge are developed through reflection of the scientific knowledge and your craft knowledge of a specific domain which leads to a practical wisdom within that domain.


Other post on knowledge:

The Process of Knowledge-based Work

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Let’s simplify what knowledge-based companies do, in order to analyze what the process of knowledge based work.
1. First, an idea is born from at least two previously known ideas that are combined in a new way.
2. Second, the idea is “sold” to one or more stakeholders that believe in its future value. Their belief is that the value of the product or service will be larger than the costs to develop it.
3. Third, the idea is transformed – by knowledge and creativity – into a product or service.
4. Fourth, it is “sold” to end-users by the stakeholder on the company’s behalf.

The process