IFeL blog

Structure, Dialogue and Autonomy

Basic Knowledge Sharing Model

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In the context of our mission of promoting collaboration at FFHS, my team has developed a variation of the SECI model of knowledge conversion (Nonaka & Takeuchi 1995) in which we focus on the foundations of knowledge sharing and which, for this reason, is called “Basic Knowledge Sharing Model”.

Both  models  are  based  on  the  distinction  of  two  kinds  or  dimensions  of knowledge: a)  explicit  knowledge,  b)  tacit  knowledge.  Explicit  knowledge  is  knowledge that one could easily express or which is already expressed (by spoken  words, written in documents or by other means that make it perceivable). But this is  not the whole knowledge base. As Polanyi wrote: “one can know more than one can tell” (Polanyi 1966, p. 8) and this “more” is a second kind or dimension of knowledge called “tacit” knowledge, the knowledge that one cannot easily express and that has not  been  expressed  (because  we  are  not  able  to  do  it,  because  it  would  take  too much time, etc. ); notice that this is the larger part – maybe 80% or even more – of our knowledge base:  in fact, we are much faster in thinking and doing than in speaking and writing! Compare for example riding a bicycle with a spoken or written description of how to ride it.  Metaphorically we could also say that explicit knowledge is only the shadow of tacit knowledge.

Figure 1 Knowledge conversion v3Figure 1.  Basic Knowledge Sharing Model – IECS

Differently from the SECI model, in our knowledge sharing model we begin by explicitly considering two individuals, each with her knowledge base, and look at how knowledge conversions proceed first within the two persons and then between them. As a consequence we start within the individual (Fig. 1):

  1. by considering first the knowledge conversion from explicit to tacit, called “internalization” (1. to learn, to understand);
  2. then we consider as second the reverse knowledge conversion, from tacit to explicit, called “externalization”  (2.  to document).
  3. In a third  step  we  look at  the  knowledge conversion from explicit to explicit called “combination”, which in our case is seen as communication  in  the  sense  of  an  exchange  of  information  (3.  communicate) between two individuals;
  4. finally we come to the crucial, fourth step called “socialization” in which tacit knowledge is shared between the two individuals by means of interactions (4. apply, live).

Thus the sequence of our model is 1. Internalization >>> 2. Externalization >>>  3.  Combination  >>>  4.  Socialization,  or  abbreviated  IECS  by  using  the  initials  of  these steps, like in SECI.

Regarding socialization and collaboration it is important to notice that in these interactions tacit knowledge “is commonly and easily conveyed by narrative, although narrative exemplifies rather than exhaustively describes such knowledge” (Linde 2001). Other practical ways to share tacit knowledge are listed by Von Krogh et al. (2000:83): direct observation and narration, imitation, experimentation and comparison, joint execution. They also mention conversations as an enabler of  tacit  knowledge  sharing  (2000:125ff)  and  suggest  that  tacit  knowledge  can  be seen as the clay that participants of knowledge-creating conversations work with and form eventually arriving at new concepts (Von Krogh et al.: 135).



Bettoni, M., Bernhard, W., Bittel, N. & Mirata, V. (in press) Sharing Tacit Knowledge in Meetings: The OSG Approach. Paper presented at the 20th Knowledge Management Forum, Milan, 28 October 2015. In press: kappaemme 26, Speciale KM 2015, Pavia: Jekpot.

Linde, C. (2001) Narrative and Social Tacit Knowledge. Journal of Knowledge Management, Special Issue on Tacit Knowledge Exchange and Active Learning, 5 (2)

Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995) The knowledge creating company: how Japanese companies create the dynamics of innovation, New York: Oxford University Press.

Polanyi, M. (1966) The Tacit Dimension, Gloucester (Mass.): Peter Smith

Von Krogh, G., Ichijo, K. & Nonaka, I. (2000) Enabling Knowledge Creation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Author: Marco Bettoni

From 1977 to 2005 I have been researcher, engineer and lecturer with industrial and academic organisations in machine design, engineering education, IT development, knowledge engineering and knowledge management. Since 2005 my research focuses on E-Collaboration, Communities of Practice and Knowledge Cooperation (www.weknow.ch). I like to share knowledge with everyone and I am interested in pretty much everything. Hobby since 1981: research in Knowledge Theory from a Radical Constructivist point of view, especially Kantian Criticism. I enjoy reading ancient Greek philosophy, sailing, walking, cooking (italian, greek) and dinner with friends, especially in Greek restaurants. Motto: We need to be the change we wish to see in the world (Mahatma Gandhi)

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