SECI model of knowledge dimensions

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The SECI model of knowledge dimensions is a model of knowledge creation that explains how tacit and explicit knowledge are converted into organisational knowledge. The SECI model distinguishes four knowledge dimensions – socialization, externalization, combination, and internalization – which together form the acronym "SECI". The SECI model was originally developed by Ikujiro Nonaka in 1990[1] and later further refined by Hirotaka Takeuchi.[2]

Four modes of knowledge conversion[edit]

SECI model of Knowledge creation.
SECI model of knowledge dimensions

Four modes of knowledge conversion were identified (Figure 1):

  1. Tacit to Tacit (Socialization) – This dimension explains Social interaction as tacit to tacit knowledge transfer, sharing tacit knowledge face-to-face or through experiences. For example, meetings and brainstorm can support this kind of interaction. Since tacit knowledge is difficult to formalize and often time and space specific, tacit knowledge can be acquired only through shared experience, such as spending time together or living in the same environment. Socialization typically occurs in a traditional apprenticeship, where apprentices learn the tacit knowledge needed in their craft through hands-on experience, rather than from written manuals or textbooks
  2. Tacit to Explicit (Externalization) – Between tacit and explicit knowledge by Externalization (publishing, articulating knowledge), developing factors, which embed the combined tacit knowledge which enable its communication. For example, concepts, images, and written documents can support this kind of interaction. When tacit knowledge is made explicit, knowledge is crystallized, thus allowing it to be shared by others, and it becomes the basis of new knowledge. Concept creation in new product development is an example of this conversion process
  3. Explicit to Explicit (Combination) – Explicit to explicit by Combination (organizing, integrating knowledge), combining different types of explicit knowledge, for example building prototypes. The creative use of computerized communication networks and large-scale databases can support this mode of knowledge conversion. Explicit knowledge is collected from inside or outside the organisation and then combined, edited or processed to form new knowledge. The new explicit knowledge is then disseminated among the members of the organization
  4. Explicit to Tacit (Internalization) – Explicit to tacit by Internalization (knowledge receiving and application by an individual), enclosed by learning by doing; on the other hand, explicit knowledge becomes part of an individual's knowledge and will be assets for an organization. Internalization is also a process of continuous individual and collective reflection and the ability to see connections and recognize patterns and the capacity to make sense between fields, ideas, and concepts.

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.

Nonaka and Konno subsequently developed the SECI model by introducing the Japanese concept of 'Ba', which roughly translates as 'place'. Ba can be thought of as a shared context or shared space in which knowledge is shared, created and utilized. It is a concept that unifies physical space such as an office space, virtual space such as e-mail, and mental space such as shared ideas.[3]


  1. Appreciates the dynamic nature of knowledge and knowledge creation.
  2. Provides a framework for management of the relevant processes.


  1. It is based on a study of Japanese organizations, which heavily rely on tacit knowledge: employees are often with a company for life.
  2. The linearity of the concept: can the spiral jump steps? Can it go counter-clockwise? Since the model is bi-directional with only two nodes, the answer is yes, but so what? An example would be an elevator in a two-story building. While it may have numbers for the floor to push to go to, it could just as easily function with only a "go" button.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nonaka, I. (1990). Management of Knowledge Creation. Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Shinbun-sha.
  2. ^ Xu, F. (2013). The Formation and Development of Ikujiro Nonaka's Knowledge Creation Theory. In G. von Krogh et al. (Eds.), Towards Organizational Knowledge: The Pioneering Work of Ikujiro Nonaka (pp. 60-76). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillann.
  3. ^ Nonaka, I. & Konno, N. (1998). The Concept of Ba: Building a Foundation for Knowledge Creation. California Management Review, vol. 40, is. 3, (pp.45).

Further reading[edit]

  • Gourlay, Stephen (2003), "The SECI model of knowledge creation: some empirical shortcomings", 4th European Conference on Knowledge Management, Oxford, England, 18-19 Sep 2003CS1 maint: location (link)