Adaptation and Context
Edited by Anders Örtenblad
Chapter 19: The Nonaka-Takeuchi model of knowledge conversion: a discussion of many contexts of Japanese history and culture
This chapter is both a commentary on, and contextualization of, the Nonaka-Takeuchi model of knowledge conversion (hereafter SECI model), which we attempt to account for in terms of the Japanese historical, philosophical, cultural and linguistic impulses that have influenced its component parts. The SECI model is without question the most influential model in knowledge management (KM). However, our starting point is that it is an explicit representation of largely culture-specific tacit patterns of communication and organizational behaviour. This means that we are not taking the model as universalistic in the sense of being in principle equally applicable to all cultures, but are acknowledging the very pronounced influence of several interrelated aspects of the Japanese context on its design features. We present our case for contextualization in the following stages. First, we consider Japan’s KM context, emphasizing its long experience of ‘learning from abroad’. Second, we consider Japan’s intellectual traditions, noting that these explain Nonaka’s more recent preoccupations with phronesis. Third, we discuss certain features of the Japanese language, which underpin Japanese-style communication in the SECI context. Each of those influences entails a brief comparison or cross-reference with Western experience. Japan’s history of interaction with the West goes back to the sixteenth century.
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