Let us review the four critical tasks of a learning organization (numbers 1-4 refer to the figure below):
- Build those tacit knowledge in workers that contribute most to value creation;
- Convert useful tacit knowledge into explicit forms that are easier to reproduce, replicate and reuse; this explicit knowledge is collected in an organized fashion into a knowledge repository or Organizational Brain;
- Provide the right explicit knowledge to be reused or practiced by the right knowledge workers; if substantial volumes of explicit knowledge have been collected, it becomes possible to recombine, digest, analyze, correlate and otherwise “mine” the collection to generate new insights and conclusions that are actionable;
- Procure needed expertise or knowledge from outside.
The tasks revolve around the green quadrant because (a) it is the quadrant where most value creation takes place, and (b) most of the knowledge in an organization is located in the green quadrant.
According to Laura Birou, only 10-20 percent of an organization’s knowledge is explicit. Robert H. Buckman of Buckman Laboratories estimates this fraction at only 10 percent. William H. Baker Jr. estimates it at 20 percent. Furthermore, not all of this explicit knowledge is captured in the organizations’ IT-based information systems. What IT does well is facilitate the replication and transmission of explicit knowledge so that more knowledge workers can use/practice them, convert them to their tacit knowledge, and create value for the organization.
Notice that the well-known SECI model of Nonaka addresses all four critical tasks of a learning organization:
- Socialization: tacit-to-tacit knowledge transfer from expert to learner
- Externalization: conversion to explicit group knowledge
- Combination: combining new explicit knowledge with other existing explict knowledge
- Internalization: conversion back to individual tacit knowledge
The SECI model is not the only mix of knowledge pathways that performs the four critical tasks. In the previous blog post, notice that the Case Study 3 organization also addresses all four critical tasks of a learning organization. The mixes of knowledge pathways do vary from organization to organization.
In Case Study 3, the explicit group knowledge is in the form of a Learning-Oriented Systems Manual (=organizational brain), which at this point in time is not yet web-based. This illustrates the fact that although information technology can be an excellent enabler, it is not an absolute necessity for a learning organization.
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Tags: combination, data mining, explicit knowledge, externalization, information technology, internalization, knowledge management, knowledge pathway, learning organization, learning-oriented manual, Nonaka, organizational brain, practice, SECI model, socialization, tacit knowledge, value creation