Organizational Learning & Knowledge Management LO23841

From: Fred Nickols (
Date: 01/27/00

Replying to Lee in LO23821 --

>Both OL and KM involve knowledge creation. According to Ikujiro Nonaka in
>"The knowledge-creating company" (Harvard Business Review, Nov,Dec, 1991,
>p.101), knowledge creation is a process of making tacit knowledge
>explicit. According to the definition, (as a simplified example) if I
>tell someone what I know (or write it down or store it electronically),
>then I have created knowledge (if he/she reads it subsequently).
>Do you agree with this defintion? Can you share your experience in
>"knowledge creation"?

Actually, I take issue with Nonaka's use of "tacit." Tacit was used by
Polanyi to designate knowledge that can't be articulated. Thus, by
definition, tacit knowledge can't be made explicit. For my own purposes,
I use tacit as Polanyi defined it, I use "explicit" as just about everyone
uses it, and I use "implicit" to refer to the kind of knowledge that can
be but hasn't yet been made explicit. (As Doug Merchant correctly noted
in LO23817, I am focused on the individual level.)

But, let's set aside these definitional issues. Let's assume that
Nonaka's use of tacit refers to articulating that which can be
articulated. That sounds more like knowledge capture than knowledge
creation. One of the examples he uses in that article is the product
developer who apprentices herself to a hotel chef renowned for the quality
of this bread. Eventually, she learns how to make bread his way and is
able to describe how it is done, including a special twisting technique.
She acquires what cognitive psychologists call "procedural knowledge" (and
doubtless some "declarative knowledge" as well). More important, she
devised a set of product specifications for a bread-making machine that
also produces high quality bread. For my money, the knowledge creation
occurred when she translated what she had learned into a viable set of
product specs.


Fred Nickols The Distance Consulting Company "Assistance at A Distance" (609) 490-0095

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