Knowledge spiral

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The spiral of knowledge

The knowledge spiral , also SECI model ( S ocialization, E xternalization, C ombination, I nternalization) called a dynamic is the model that the knowledge transfer from the implicit to the explicit knowledge is thus to clarify the process of knowledge acquisition and knowledge transfer in companies investigated .

A transfer of knowledge and the associated change in knowledge can take place either on an individual or on an organizational level. This represents a transition from individual to collective knowledge. The model, which contributed significantly to the development of knowledge management , was developed by the two Japanese scientists Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi .

Differentiation between implicit and explicit knowledge

The distinction between implicit and explicit knowledge (see the table below) can be traced back to the scientist Michael Polanyi . Through an interaction of the two types of knowledge with the environment and the organization, new knowledge can be created. This process, the creation of new knowledge, can be illustrated using the knowledge spiral.

Implicit knowledge Explicit knowledge
Empirical knowledge (body) Mind knowledge (spirit)
Simultaneous knowledge (here and now) Sequential knowledge (there and then)
Analog knowledge (practice) Digital knowledge (theory)

to form

Nonaka / Takeuchi distinguish the following 4 forms in their work:

Transformation of knowledge
Implicit knowledge Explicit knowledge
Implicit knowledge socialization Externalization
Explicit knowledge Internalization combination
  • Socialization: The key to acquiring tacit knowledge is experience . This means that a person can acquire implicit knowledge directly from other people even without language . The exchange of experience is important here, as the following example of the invention of the bread maker shows: A central problem in the development of the bread maker in the late 1980s was the mechanization of dough kneading. As the kneading process was part of the baker's implicit knowledge, it was decided to use the to compare kneaded dough of a master baker with that of a machine using X-rays. Great differences were found in the two doughs and so the engineers of the bread maker started the apprenticeship of a master baker. While observing the master baker, they noticed that he not only stretched the dough, but also turned it. A solution to the problem could be found through observation, imitation and practice. In summary, it can be said that implicit knowledge is transformed into changed implicit knowledge through the exchange of experience.
  • Externalization: Implicit knowledge that has already been acquired through socialization is here converted into explicit knowledge. The visual language (such as metaphors , hypotheses or concepts ) plays the decisive role here. Metaphors are sought and then compared with the knowledge that is already known. This can create an ambiguity, which in turn can encourage reflection and interaction . There is thus the possibility of generating new knowledge.
  • Combination: Different areas of explicit knowledge should be connected to one another in order to create new explicit knowledge. Knowledge is collected inside and outside a company and then combined, edited or processed. Through this process a complex and systemic form of knowledge can be generated. As an example, certain technologies could be mentioned here that are successfully transferred to new areas of application. It is important here that these technologies are also documented.
  • Internalization: Explicit knowledge is converted into implicit knowledge. The individual experiences that have already been made from the three previous types of knowledge conversion are processed here again through an intensive discussion. Through a constant application of the explicit knowledge, this enters into daily actions, so to speak, and thus becomes a habit. At the end of the process, there is again implicit knowledge. This time, however, in a new and improved form and the knowledge generation process starts all over again.

All of these processes interact with and with each other and thus form a spiral. The knowledge that is created in the four forms is different in each case. In order to understand this model correctly, it is necessary to realize that innovative knowledge can only be created for an organization if the transitions between explicit and implicit knowledge are integrated, promoted and communicated in the organizational processes.

The knowledge that is created through this transformation is different in each case:

  • Socialization: leads to sympathetic knowledge; Example: technical skills, mental models
  • Externalization: gives conceptual knowledge
  • Combination: generates systemic knowledge; Example: technologies for prototypes, new components

The meaning of Ba in the context of the knowledge spiral

The term Ba is another important aspect in the transformation of knowledge and means something like space, place or place. It is a mental (e.g. shared experience), virtual (e.g. email) or physical (e.g. office) space that is shared by several people. A combination of the three forms is also possible. By reflecting on one's own actions or experiences, new knowledge is generated. This concept originally comes from the Japanese philosopher Kitaro Nishida . The essential distinction between human actions and the concept Ba lies in the creation of knowledge. This arises through an interaction in the "shared ba" (shared ba).

Here, too, 4 types can be distinguished that correspond to the model from Nonaka / Takeuchi:

Concept of ba Model by Nonaka / Takeuchi meaning
Originating Ba socialization the place where individuals exchange feelings, experiences or emotions
Interacting Ba Externalization through dialogue, mental models and skills are transformed into everyday concepts
Cyber ​​Ba combination the mental models are reflected and adapted in a virtual space
Exercising Ba Internalization the place where explicit knowledge is converted into implicit knowledge

Possible criticism of this model

  • Knowledge only arises in the way described above. All other forms of knowledge generation such as experimentation are excluded.
  • Explicit knowledge is used ambiguously as a term, implicit knowledge is not considered enough. The consequence is that the concept of externalization can be misleading.
  • The conversion from tacit to explicit knowledge is unlikely to be that easy or quick in practice.

Embedding in the model-theoretical scheme LIR

The LIR scheme developed by Rainer Born (Institute for Philosophy and Philosophy of Science at the Johannes Kepler University Linz ) shows how communication can function in a simplified form as a meta-model. Linguistic and non-linguistic elements are brought together here. The cycle begins with observing the incident. This is followed by an evaluation of the facts, then plans and decisions are made, which are then finally implemented in concrete actions. An essential feature of this scheme is that you can step out of the system and thus a search for alternative possible solutions is possible.