Reflection on the key developments on the organizational knowledge creation theory

Theoretical Background
The organization knowledge creation theory was first developed by Nonaka, (1994) that explained the conversion of tacit and explicit knowledge into organizational knowledge and presented four modes of knowledge conversion that are as follows:

  1. Tacit to tacit
  2. Explicit to explicit
  3. Tacit to explicit
  4. Explicit to tacit
Nonaka, (1994) advocated that “the key to acquiring tacit knowledge is experience” and called the process of creating tacit knowledge through shared experience socialization. In addition to this, he stated that “socialization is connected with theories of organizational culture”. 

Similarly, he emphasized that “reconfiguring of existing information through the sorting, adding, recategorizing, recontextualization of explicit knowledge can lead to new knowledge”, more specifically new explicit knowledge which he called combination and claimed, “is rooted in information processing”. Besides this, Nonaka called the process of knowledge conversion from explicit to tacit form as internalization and stressed that it has “associations with organizational learning”. Furthermore, Nonaka, (1994) stated that the concept of externalization, named after the process of conversion of tacit knowledge to explicit form, was “not well developed” and that “the limited analysis that does exist is from the point of view of information creation”. In his later works (Nonaka,(2002); Nonaka et al., (2000); Nonaka et al., (1996)), Nonaka advanced the research on the topic of tacit knowledge and stated “knowledge tied to the senses, tactile experiences, movement skills, intuition, unarticulated mental models, or implicit rules of thumb is tacit”. He further stated that it is rooted in “action, procedures, routines, commitment, ideals, values and emotions”. Some ideas like the use of metaphors, analogies, images were presented by Nonaka to facilitate externalization (Nonaka, 2007).

Key points in the reviewed article
After having explained the key concepts of organizational knowledge creation theory and recent developments on the externalization aspect of it, this post from here on highlights some of the key points mentioned in the follow-up paper by Nonaka & von Krogh, (2009). In this paper, they addressed certain controversies that dominated the academic domain since the introduction of organizational knowledge creation theory and elaborate more on the tacit knowledge and knowledge conversion part of the theory. Figure below provides insight into some of the key points made by Nonaka & von Krogh, (2009).

As can be seen in figure above, the theory complements the resource-based and knowledge-based view of the firm which advocates that knowledge is an important resource that provides a competitive advantage to the firms (Conner & Prahalad, 1996). Similarly, the theory also complements the theory of firm dynamic capabilities by Teece et al., (1997),  which highlighted the importance of dynamic processes. Nonaka & von Krogh, (2009) stated that the theory fundamentally focuses on organizational creativity, learning, innovation, and change.

With regards to the status of truth, Nonaka & von Krogh, (2009) explain that the theory separates itself from correspondence doctrine that taught that information processing creates “true” representation of an individual or organizational reliability. Conversely, the authors state that the status of truth, in accordance with the traditional definition of knowledge to be “justified true belief”, is that it directs justification of belief towards experience. Secondly, that over time beliefs become true if they can be justified. Besides this, the authors also claim that the people’s justification of their beliefs is a process embedded in a social context and the status of truth results from processes where people individually and collectively justify beliefs in the organization. The theory advocates two key concepts namely the conceptual distinction of tacit and explicit knowledge along a continuum; and that the knowledge conversion process explains the interaction between tacit and explicit knowledge. In addition to this, the authors also state that the value of tacit/explicit knowledge distinction in organization science is that it allows researchers to unveil and distinguish knowledge assets for organizational action. Furthermore, this distinction provides knowledge for management practice as a source of inspiration for how to do things differently and deal with new situations. Lastly, Nonaka & von Krogh, (2009) conclude that the key outcomes of knowledge conversion includes product and process innovations; enhanced capability to act, define, and solve problems both along the tacit and explicit end of the continuum; and evolution of social practices


Conner, K. R., & Prahalad, C. K. (1996). A Resource-Based Theory of the Firm: Knowledge Versus Opportunism. Organization Science, 7(5), 477–501.

Nonaka, I. (1994). A Dynamic Theory of Organizational Knowledge Creation. Organization Science, 5(1), 14–37.

Nonaka, I. (2002). A firm as a knowledge-creating entity: a new perspective on the theory of the firm. Industrial and Corporate Change, 9(1), 1–20.

Nonaka, I. (2007). Managing for the long term: The Knowledge-creating company. Havard Business Review, (July-August 2007), 162–171.

Nonaka, I., Toyama, R., & Konno, N. (2000). SECI, Ba and Leadership: A Unified Model of Dynamic Knowledge Creation. Long Range Planning, 33(1), 5–34.

Nonaka, I., Umemoto, K., & Senoo, D. (1996). From information processing to knowledge creation: A paradigm shift in business management. Technology in Society, 18(2 SPEC. ISS.), 203–218.

Nonaka, I., & von Krogh, G. (2009). Perspective—Tacit Knowledge and Knowledge Conversion: Controversy and Advancement in Organizational Knowledge Creation Theory. Organization Science, 20(3), 635–652.

Teece, D. J., Pisano, G., & Shuen, A. (1997). Dynamic capabilities and strategic management. Strategic Management Journal TA  – TT  –, 18(7), 509–533.<509::AID-SMJ882>3.0.CO;2-Z LK  –