Nonaka’s SECI Framework: Case Study Evidence and an Extension

KINDAI MANAGEMENT REVIEW  | Vol. 1, 2013 (ISSN: 2186-6961)

By Donna Finley and Vijay Sathe


Nonaka’s SECI framework (1994) describes the process of creating knowledge and how it is transferred from the smallest part of the organization – the individual – to the broader organization wide context. We provide case study evidence that is consistent with the SECI framework for not only a single organization but also for more complex organizational settings such as multiple organizations in partnership, and in a confederation of diverse and autonomous groups within a single unifying structure.

We then extend this work to the more difficult and complex case of knowledge transfer between academics and practitioners, who do not operate in a single organization-wide context. A Knowledge Transfer Continuum (Finley, 2012) is introduced, involving seven translator roles that are pivotal for closing the gaps in the transfer of knowledge between academics and practitioners. Emerging evidence suggests that multiple handoffs occur between the seven roles to bridge the knowledge transfer gap between practitioners and academics. Further, the flow of information through the Knowledge Transfer Continuum is not necessarily sequential, hierarchal, systematic or complete.

A key benefit of the Knowledge Transfer Continuum is the ability to clearly identify important differences between specific roles. Further, knowledge transfer between adjacent, more closely related roles is significantly easier and more expedient than attempting to bridge the larger gap between a pure practitioner and a pure academic.

In summary, Nonaka’s SECI framework describes four major processes for knowledge creation and transfer, and the Knowledge Transfer Continuum builds on this work by highlighting the interaction between adjacent roles engaged in those processes. Together, these two frameworks provide a more comprehensive and versatile approach for knowledge creation and mobilization. Organizational capacity can be built by focusing on the translator roles to address the knowledge transfer gaps.