Nonaka & Takeuchi - Seci, Ba & Knowledge Assets

The Structure of Concern Project compares many theoretical models from many disciplines to the Adizes PAEI model, arguing that they must all be reflecting the same underlying phenomenon. Three concern structure models are described below.

The SECI model of knowledge management developed in the mid-1990’s by Nonaka and Takeuchi is one of the seminal works in the field, famous for drawing attention very sharply towards tacit knowledge in the workplace, and how tacit knowledge informs and becomes explicit knowledge by various processes (Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; De Geytere, 2005). Their knowledge management framework features three separate models whose lineaments fall into the patterns also defined by the structure of concern. These models include:

  • Phases of SECI;
  • Styles of Ba (‘shared space of engagement’), and;
  • Categories of knowledge assets.



The acronym SECI stands for a four-phase knowledge development cycle, which begins in the I quadrant of the structure of concern. Cultural contrast between this model and the P-initiated Western models is extremely illuminating. It represents the spiral of emergence of explicit knowledge from tacit knowledge in the workplace:

I – Socialization: Tacit knowledge is shared among people through modeling and mentoring, conversation, workplace culture, shared experiences and the like. Key skill: empathizing.

E – Externalization: People begin developing metaphors and analogies to explain the rationality or sense of their tacitly-informed behavior. Tacit knowledge becomes more explicit as concepts undergo refinement. Key skill: articulating.

A – Combination: Explicit ideas get combined with other explicit ideas, seeking out dependencies and eliminating redundancies, culminating in complete descriptions of processes and procedures for accomplishing tasks. Key skill: connecting.

P – Internalization: Explicit ideas get over-learned into implicit knowledge again as people internalize the newly-explicit procedures. Knowledge is now once more in the zone of socialization, and a spiral of knowledge cultivation may ensue (implicit to implicit). Key skill: embodying.



Ba means something like the Adizes concept of a learning environment, or the Cynefin concept (reviewed below in this catalog). It is a group context where knowledge is shared, generated and put into practice through collaboration. Giving it a temporal rather than a spatial construction, it could be considered a “mode”, so that a work group might be in the “Originating mode”. The spatial overtones are considered important to the concept, however. There are four categories of Ba, again ending, rather than beginning, with P, unlike most Western concern structure models:

E – Originating Ba (Face-to-face individual): Face-to-face and front-line interactions, where problems and solutions/insights both emerge spontaneously in individual situations. The creative context of daily work where tacit knowledge of the job develops.

I – Dialoguing (Face-to-face collective): The collective interactions, sharing of anecdotes and stories, recounting daily experiences, and other informal transactions that allow tacit knowledge to spread and influence organizational work.

A – Systematizing (Virtual collective): The context of evaluation and review, discovery that certain kinds of practices produced better outcomes, reflecting that information back to the front line and decision makers, indicating successful approaches to tasks.

P – Exercising (Virtual individual): Using information about the better practices and comparing it to their own performance, people bring their behavior in line with more successful approach.

Knowledge Assets


Nonaka and Tekeuchi identify four categories of knowledge assets, in PAEI order as follows:

P - Routine Knowledge Assets: Tacit procedural knowledge routinized and embedded in organizational cultures, actions and daily practices.

A - Systemic Knowledge Assets: Explicit, codified and systematic knowledge stores in documents, databases, manuals, specifications and patents.

E – Conceptual Knowledge Assets: Explicit knowledge in symbolic form, including product concepts, brand equity, design styles, symbols and language.

I – Experiential Knowledge Assets: Tacit knowledge emergent in collective experience, including the growing skills and judgment of individuals, prosocial feelings like trust and care, and motivational resources fueling participations, passions and tensions.

Compiling all three of Nonaka and Takeuchi’s models gives us four fairly clear PAEI factors:

P - Routine Knowledge Assets, Internalization, Exercising (Virtual individual): Procedural knowledge, routinized, embedded, over-learned, embodied, behavioral, applied.

A - Systemic Knowledge Assets, Combination, Systematizing (Virtual collective): Explicit, codified, systematic, descriptive, complete, comparative, evaluative.

E – Conceptual Knowledge Assets, Externalization, Originating (Face-to-face individual): Symbols, concepts, brands, styles, metaphors, analogies, emergent, developmental.

I – Experiential Knowledge Assets, Socialization, Dialoguing (Face-to-face collective): Collective, shared, enhancing social cohesion, participatory, grassroots, sharing.

1. Nonaka, I., & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation. New York: Oxford University Press.
2. De Geytere, T. (2005) “SECI model (Nonaka Takeuchi)” [Web Page]. URL [2005, October 29].
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