Organizational Learning & Knowledge Management LO23850

Date: 01/29/00

Replying to LO23841 --

At 06:23 PM 27/01/00 -0500, you wrote:
>>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).

In the context of the article, Nonaka was referring to EXPLICIT knowledge
creation. On page 97, he gives an example of creation of new knowledge:
"A brilliant researcher has an insight that leads to a new patent." The
insight is an example of the creation of tacit knowledge. [Host's Note:
...creation of explicit knowledge?? It must be explicit because it's
documented in the patent. Or, Patrick, do you mean the knowlege of how to
come up with new insights, which is probably tacit? ..Rick]

To make Lee's example more precise: It makes a difference whether you
tell it or record it. If you tell it, but the listener doesn't understand
or isn't interested an ignores what you say, the "knowledge" vanishes into
the ether, and doesn't get created in the listener. If it's recorded,
then the explicit knowledge it exists until it is destroyed.

>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.)

Nonaka's article clearly demonstrates that he doesn't consider that all
tacit knowledge can be made explicit. On page 99, he states "To convert
tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge means finding a way to express the

My research suggests that Polanyi defines tacit knowledge as knowledge
that a person holds in his/her mind and body. Nonaka quotes Polanyi on
page 98, "We can know more than we can tell." While much of tacit
knowledge cannot be articulated, some tacit knowledge CAN be made
explicit. Therefore it would be incorrect to say that tacit knowledge
can't be made explicit.

>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.

The translation was the insight on what the bread machine needed to do to
produce good bread. Knowledge capture occurred when she wrote down the

[Host's Note: So... do we need another category for knowledge which has
not yet been articulated, but could be? ..Rick]


"Patrick Sue" <>

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