Knowledge Dynamics


In the chapter about cognitive knowledge, the author introduced the dyad of explicit-tacit knowledge developed by Ikujiro Nonaka and his colleagues. This dyad represents the conceptual framework of the dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation. The breakthrough of this theory is the SECI model, which consists of four knowledge conversion processes: socialization (from tacit knowledge to tacit knowledge), externalization (from tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge), combination (from explicit knowledge to explicit knowledge), and internalization (from explicit knowledge to tacit knowledge). All of these knowledge conversion processes may happen in Ba, a dynamic context where interactions between people take place. The purpose of this chapter is to present the main concepts and ideas of the dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation developed by Nonaka and his colleagues, a theory that represents a major contribution to the development of knowledge management.
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We recall from the chapter about Cognitive knowledge that for Plato, knowledge was a result of reasoning and not of perception. We cannot trust our senses since they don’t have the capacity to reach the truth. “We perceive hard and soft through touch, but it is the mind that judges that they exist and that they are contrary. Only the mind can reach existence, and we cannot reach truth if we do not reach existence” (Russel, 1972, pp. 152-153). Plato considered knowledge “as eternal and accessible through philosophical training and thinking” (Styhre, 2003, p. 55). Thus, knowledge is conceived as a static, eternal, and universal entity. For instance, there are many cats we see around us, but if we think at the word “cat”, it does not mean something which is related to a particular cat, “but some kind of universal cattiness. This is not born when a particular cat is born, and does not die when it dies. In fact, it has no position in space or time; it is eternal” (Russel, 1972, p. 121).

Aristotle, the best known student of Plato, had a different view on knowledge than his master. Knowledge could embrace one the following “states of the soul” (Aristotle, 1999, pp. 87-90): episteme, which reflects scientific knowledge; techne, which reflects craft knowledge, and phronesis, which reflects practical reason and prudence knowledge. The other two states of the soul are understanding and wisdom. Scientific knowledge is everlasting and indestructible. “Hence, what is known scientifically is by necessity. Hence it is everlasting; for the things that are by unqualified necessity are all everlasting, and everlasting things are ingenerable and indestructible” (Aristotle, 1999, p. 88). Craft knowledge is concerned with production, that is with creating things that do not exist yet. That means that each producer should have practical knowledge and principles of building products. “Every craft is concerned with coming to be, and the exercise of the craft is the study of how something that admits of being and not being comes to be, something whose principle is in the producer and not in the product” (Aristotle, 1999, p. 88). Phronesis or prudence knowledge is concerned with action and practical reason, which constitutes the most important source of individual knowledge. It is about experience and knowledge gained through direct action, since “prudence is a state grasping the truth, involving reason, concerned with action about things that are good or bad for a human being. For production has its end in something other than itself, but action does not, since its end is acting well itself” (Aristotle, 1999, p. 89). Thus, Aristotle conceives knowledge as being represented by three different states of the soul, states that reflect basically people’s existence, action and production. Although Aristotle’s perspective on knowledge is more complex than that of Plato, and achievable from direct experience and practical work of production, I have to underline its static nature. As Russell (1972, p. 169) remarks, Aristotle “has also the Greek love of static perfection and preference for contemplation rather than action. His doctrine of the soul illustrates this aspect of his philosophy”.

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