Handbook of Research on Knowledge Management
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Handbook of Research on Knowledge Management

Adaptation and Context

Edited by Anders Örtenblad

This innovative Handbook aims to examine whether there is a need to adapt and widen our understanding of knowledge management. A common definition of knowledge management is taken as the starting point for discussions on its relevance in various contexts, such as Buddhist organizations, law firms, the army and indigenous organizations. Moreover, the universality of Ikujiro Nonaka’s ideas on knowledge management is explored, and some alternative definitions are suggested. This book will appeal to academics and students of business and management, business administration, sociology and organizational behavior. Practitioners, managers and business-owners will also find this an invaluable resource.
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Chapter 19: The Nonaka-Takeuchi model of knowledge conversion: a discussion of many contexts of Japanese history and culture

Nigel Holden and Martin Glisby


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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