Managing Existing Knowledge is Not Enough: Knowledge Management Theory and Practice in Japan

Katsuhiro Umemoto

Graduate School of Knowledge Science,BR> Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology


As of 2000, Nonaka's theory of organizational knowledge creation consists of four major elements: (1) the SECI model, the process of creating new knowledge through interaction and conversion between tacit and explicit knowledge (see chapter by Nonaka); (2) ba or a shared context for knowledge creation; (3) knowledge assets as inputs and outputs of the knowledge-creating process; and (4) knowledge leadership that provides enabling conditions conducive to the process. These four elements interact with each other in "management by creating new knowledge continuously."

Because no single company can represent the all aspects of Nonaka's theory, we present mini-cases that are practicing each of the four elements: i.e., the SECI model, ba, knowledge assets, and knowledge leadership, respectively. Needless to say, however, practice cannot be the same as theory. In reality, therefore, Japanese companies to be presented in this chapter (Fuji Xerox, NTT East, Hitachi, Sony, Eizai) have adapted, with varying degrees, the four elements.

To appear in "Strategic Management of Intellectual Capital and Organizational Knowledge" edited by Nick Bontis & Chun Wei Choo (Oxford University Press).