SECI model

by Ikujiro Nonaka and Takeuchi

from Bouchard, 2001Bouchard, P. (2001). Experiential Teaching and Learning. In T. Barer-Stein & M. Kompf (Eds.), The Craft of Teaching Adults. Culture Concepts. and Wikipedia:

Interplay between explicit knowledge and implicit knowledge. For an organization to learn something, knowledge needs to be transformed in one combination or other from explicit to implicit, or vice-versa.

Initially two dimensional theory of knowledge creation - first is epistemological dimension, site of social interaction between tacit and explicit knowledge.

Explicit-to-tacit Internalization (4th)

Occurs when explicit knowledge (for example, the written rules and procedures for accomplishing a specific task) is absorbed by an individual or a unit to such an extent that the information becomes embedded in the person's own (implicit) knowledge-base.

Explicit-to-explicit Combination (3rd)

Occurs when explicit knowledge is reproduced and transmitted to other individuals or units within the organization, through carefully drafted documents containing crucial information.

Tacit-to-tacit Socialization (1st)

Occurs when one person's implicit knowledge becomes another person's implicit knowledge. This happens in situations where people merge their tacit knowledge-base, for instance, in mentoring relationships.

Tacit-to-explicit Externalization (2nd)

Occurs when implicit knowledge within the organization somehow becomes explicit. This can happen when a senior employee's experiential knowledge-base is tapped to produce documents or materials intended for others.

Usable knowledge

Information within an organization can be written down, saved on disk, or put on a library shelf, but it will not become useable knowledge until it is embedded in people's awareness through one of the four processes described above.

After Internalization the process continues at a new ‘level’,hence the metaphor of a “spiral” of knowledge creation (Nonaka & Takeuchi 1995: 71-2, 89) often referred to as the SECI model.

Mentioned in Corneli, 2010Corneli, J. (2010). Crowdsourcing a Personalized Learning Environment for Mathematics. fth Doct, 7. connected to CHAT, basho…

Nonaka and Takeuchi’s Model of Knowledge Creation In their book The Knowledge-Creating Company, Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi (1995) presented a model of innovation processes, central to which is an epistemological distinction between two kinds of knowledge, tacit and explicit. Explicit knowledge is knowledge that is easy to articulate and express formally and in clear terms. Tacit knowledge, which is more important in creating innovations, is “personal knowledge embedded in individual experience and involves intangible factors such as personal belief, perspective, and the value system” (viii). Another fundamental point in this model is an “ontological” framework of four levels of “entities” that operate in knowledge creation: the individual, group, organizational, and inter-organizational levels. According to Nonaka and Takeuchi, knowledge is created and transformed in an ascending process, or spiral, from the individual level to the group and organizational levels, and finally between organizations. (loc: 59-66)

A “knowledge spiral” is grounded in four complementary types of knowledge conversion: (a) from tacit knowledge to tacit knowledge, labeled socialization; (b) from tacit to explicit knowledge, called externalization; © from explicit to explicit knowledge, or combination; and (d) from explicit to tacit knowledge, or internalization.The (loc: 67-69)

knowledge creation spiral starts from socialization, sharing tacit knowledge and experiences at the group level. In this phase, a close interaction and collaboration within a group is needed. The aim of the socialization process is to create common understanding and trust within the group. The next phase, externalization, is the central one in knowledge creation. In this phase, tacit knowledge is explicated and conceptualized by means of metaphors, analogies, and concepts. In Nonaka and Takeuchi’s model, the basic source of innovation is tacit knowledge, which needs to be explicated in order to be transformed into knowledge that is useful at the levels of the group and the whole organization. At the combination stage, units of already-existing explicit knowledge are combined and exchanged. Finally, to have real effects in an organization, the explicit knowledge of the group or organization must be internalized by individuals and transformed into tacit knowledge and into action through “learning by doing.” After internalization, a new round of the knowledge spiral will begin. (loc: 69-76) Paavola, Lipponen & Hakkarainen, 2004Paavola, S., Lipponen, L., & Hakkarainen, K. (2004). Models of Innovative Knowledge Communities and Three Metaphors of Learning. Review of Educational Research, 74(4), 557-576.

From Wikipedia article:

Pros and cons (from WP)


  • Appreciates the dynamic nature of knowledge and knowledge creation
  • Provides a framework for management of the relevant processes
  • Disadvantages of the SECI model


  • It is based on a study of Japanese organizations, which heavily rely on tacit knowledge: employees are often with a company for life
  • The linearity of the concept: can the spiral jump steps? Can it go counter-clockwise?

References (from Wikipedia)

Gourlay, Stephen (2003), “The SECI model of knowledge creation: some empirical shortcomings”, 4th European Conference on Knowledge Management, Oxford, England, 18-19 Sep 2003, Nonaka, I., Toyama, R. and Konno, N. (2000). ‘SECI, Ba, and leadership: a unified model of dynamic knowledge creation’. Long Range Planning, 33, pp 5-34. Nonaka, Ikujiro; Takeuchi, Hirotaka (1995), The knowledge creating company: how Japanese companies create the dynamics of innovation, New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 284, ISBN 978-0-19-509269-1, Nonaka, Ikujiro (1991), “The knowledge creating company”, Harvard Business Review 69 (6 Nov-Dec): 96–104, Siemens, George (2006), Knowing Knowledge, Lulu Publishing

Vygotsky (1978) recognized two basic processes operating continuously at every level of human activity: internalization and externalization. Vygotsky proposed that even though every complex mental function is first an interaction between people, it subsequently becomes a process within individuals. It is the transition from the external operation to internal development which undergoes qualitative changes. This transformation involves the mastery of external means of thinking and learning to use symbols to control and regulate one's thinking. Constructivism []