SECI model
(Nonaka Takeuchi)

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A unified model of dynamic organizational knowledge creation. Explanation of SECI model of Nonaka and Takeuchi. ('95)

Contributed by: Tom De Geytere


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SECI model Nonaka TakeuchiWhat is the SECI model? Description

Ikujiro Nonaka and Hirotaka Takeuchi propose a model of the knowledge creating process to understand the dynamic nature of knowledge creation, and to manage such a process effectively: the SECI model. It consist of 3 elements:

  1. SECI
  2. Ba
  3. Knowledge Assets

These 3 elements interact with each other organically and dynamically. The knowledge assets of an organization are mobilized and shared in 'Ba' whereas the tacit knowledge held by individuals is converted and amplified by the spiral of knowledge through:

  • Socialization
  • Externalization
  • Combination
  • Internalization

The three elements should be integrated under clear leadership so that the organization can create knowledge continuously and dynamically: it must become a discipline for organizational members.


The creation of knowledge is a continuous process of dynamic interactions between tacit and explicit knowledge. The four modes of knowledge conversion interact in the spiral of knowledge creation. The spiral becomes larger in scale as it moves up through organizational levels, and can trigger new spirals of knowledge creation.
SECO model four categories of Ba
Socialization. Sharing tacit knowledge through face-to-face communication or shared experience. An example is an apprenticeship.
Externalization. Developing concepts, which embed the combined tacit knowledge. And which enable its communication.
Combination. Combination of various elements of explicit knowledge: building a prototype is an example.
Internalization. Closely linked to learning by doing, the explicit knowledge becomes part of the individual's knowledge base (e.g. mental model) and becomes an asset for the organization.


This difficult concept (there is no exact translation of the word) can be defined as a shared context in which knowledge is shared, created and utilized through interaction.

The diagram illustrates the various types of Ba, each offering a context for a specific step in the knowledge-creating process.

Examples of the categories, using Seven-Eleven (Japanese convenience shops):

  • Originating Ba: the shop floor, it enables people to interact with each other and with customers.
  • Dialoguing Ba: the tacit knowledge of local employees is used to create sales forecasts, in dialogue with each other.
  • Systemizing Ba: the forecasts of sales are tested against the sales results and are fed back to the local stores.
  • Exercising Ba: using this information, and comparing it to reality, staff improve their skills and ability to make the forecasts.

Four categories of knowledge assetsKnowledge assets

These are company-specific resources that are indispensable to create values for the firm. They are the inputs, outputs, and moderating factors, of the knowledge-creating process.

To effectively manage knowledge creation and exploitation, a company has to 'map' its inventory of knowledge assets. Cataloguing is however not enough: knowledge assets are dynamic; new knowledge assets can be created from existing knowledge assets.


The role of leadership is illustrated in the next diagram:
SECI - role of leadership

Origin of the SECI model. History

The model from Nonaka and Takeuchi is based on Polanyi's distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge (1983) and provides an understanding of knowledge creation and management from a Japanese business culture perspective.

Strengths of the SECI model. Benefits

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

Limitations of the SECI model. Disadvantages

  • It is based on a study of Japanese organizations, which heavily rely on tacit knowledge: employees are often with a company for life.
  • The linearity of the concept: can the spiral jump steps? Can it go counter-clockwise?

Book: Ikujiro Nonaka, Hirotaka Takeuchi - The Knowledge-Creating Company -

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Compare with the SECI model: Bridging Epistemologies  |  Organizational Learning  |  Organizational Memory  |  Action Learning  |  Knowledge Management (Collison & Parcell)

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