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Knowledge Spiral Mode

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The Knowledge Spiral model is Nonaka & Takeuchi’s philosophy about team learning. It is also known as the SECI model (socialization – externalization – combination – internalization). This model is used for example in Proakatemias philosophy of team learning. The model focuses on tacit and explicit knowledge and how organizations can learn by sharing their knowledge inside the organization. 

Before going over SECI it is important to understand what is tacit and explicit knowledge. Tacit knowledge is the knowledge that we have gained through practice, observation, and day-to-day talks. It is the knowledge that is gained by living experience either in work life or personal development. This knowledge is usually overlooked and hard to put on paper to be expressed and is easier shown by the action. While explicit knowledge is something that is easy to articulate, write down and share. For example, it can be a diagram, an article, or like a manual. It is something concrete and visible.

The system in the Knowledge Spiral model is built on the active share of knowledge and development of the knowledge between people. As well as learning from the knowledge that is shared and creating new knowledge. It keeps spiraling and developing the organization. Because I. Nonaka believes that “In an economy where the only certainty is uncertainty, the one sure source of lasting competitive advantage is knowledge.”. If your organization is able to harvest this knowledge, you are able to have the advantage. One way of creating this knowledge is by implementing the knowledge spiral model in the organization. But how does this model work and what phases does it have? 

S – Socialization 

From tacit knowledge to tacit knowledge. This is where two individuals meet and share their knowledge with each other via talking and socializing with each other. It is the natural way of sharing knowledge quickly. It is a low-effort and fast way of knowledge sharing, but it doesn’t leave any physical evidence or note to go back and analyze the knowledge, because it only remains in the mind of the participants. Because the knowledge is tacit, it is not written down and relies on the people to remember it. You can learn new knowledge from other people by socializing and having new ideas from it. A way organization can support this is to allow people to socialize during breaks for example or have the new people coming into the company observe a work of a worker who has been in the company for a while. So the tacit knowledge gets shared between the people in a natural way. 

E – Externalization 

From tacit knowledge to explicit knowledge. Meaning that the tacit knowledge is turned into a visible form. For example, it can be in a form of writing that is easy to show and share. In this mode, the individuals are able to articulate their knowledge and know-how. So the knowledge that had been only talked about or showed how to do is transformed into written form. For example, a person who is able to drive a car usually has taught people how to drive a car by showing them. He observes the tacit knowledge that he has and transforms it into explicit knowledge by writing a manual on how to drive a car. It is a rather hard process where the individual needs to observe the tacit knowledge that he has and articulate it into words or diagrams so it can be shown and shared as explicit knowledge. Taking the knowledge inside of our head and writing it down.  

C – Combination 

From explicit knowledge to explicit knowledge. In this part, we combine different explicit knowledge that we have in written form into each other to create a new form of explicit knowledge and make it more complex and valuable. In this state we get to explore the explicit knowledge there is already and combine it to create a combination of that knowledge. For example, if there is a working team that has gathered data about how their product was sold during the last year. They decide to combine the data together to see which of the products should be sold best in which season, so they can use that knowledge in marketing. It is all about making combinations of knowledge and trying it out.  

I – Internalization  

From explicit knowledge to tacit knowledge. Here we internalized the explicit knowledge into our mind so it can be practiced and used without thinking about it, so it comes tacit knowledge. It is linked to “learning by doing” where we use explicit knowledge to utilize it in our doing. In this part, an individual has learned the knowledge and understands it in a way that he is able to reframe it and use it in his work and life. It may take some time to get it inside the head but after it is owned it becomes an asset. For example, a graduate student has the basic knowledge of project management and has seen how projects are run in the company, and has been given guide book what steps to take in project management. He has compared the steps from the guidebook with the theory of her school book and is now given the opportunity to run a project. He uses the knowledge taught to him by school and company to run the project in his way. He takes the knowledge to use in practice. Internalization is all about using the knowledge you have gained in the work so it can turn into tacit knowledge.  


To summarize Knowledge Spiral Model is a philosophy that by integrating it into an organization members can create great value by creating new knowledge and sharing it inside the organization. It is based on sharing knowledge with each other and taking that knowledge into action. To secure new knowledge is born the model spiralizes, so there is no ending and the organization keeps learning.  




Youtube, The Nonaka and Takeuchi Knowledge Spiral Mode by Digital Megatrends, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCPs5dKI5j4

Article, The knowledge-creating company. Published in Harvard Business Review.

Podcast, Lets talk Knowledge sharing. Published in Learning And Development 101.

  • Flóra Lang

    Important topic, especially in Proakatemia! Maybe you could improve on the referencing, both in-text and list, as well as the introduction to the main body could be a little smoother in my opinion. Good job though ?

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