The SECI model of organisational learning and its usefulness to workplace designers

An often quoted/used model in the world of organisational learning is the “SECI” model. It proposes 4 discrete learning processes.

The four processes are:
Socialisation: where tacit knowledge (that which is not written down) gets transferred from person to person
Externalisation: where tacit knowledge gets spoken out loud / written down / made explicit.
Combination: where explicit knowledge is combined with other explicit knowledge to make more explicit knowledge
Internalisation: where a person reads explicit knowledge and learns it, lets it seep into their world-view.

See: Nonaka_SECI_Model

Now, some debate the correctness of the model. If people want we could do that here. Tim [Tim Springer – LinkedIn] and I have been corresponding on it privately but perhaps it would be better to hold that discussion in the round.

My own view is that Nonaka’s SECI model is potentially useful to those of us trying to work out what a productive office is. If there are 4 basic processes at play in a firm that are making new knowledge, then we should all be trying to figure out how to encourage all 4 them. The processes are very different and so Nonaka’s model seems to imply that knowledge workers need more than one working environment. I describe 2 below.

Internalisation: this process involves the individual making sense of their work and the explicit instructions they have been given. To my mind this would be best done in an environment that promotes concentration and lack of interruption (visual or auditory). So an office would be good, as would a library.

Socialisation: this process is one individual “catching” an idea off another. To me this best happens in a social, buzzy place, where people talk, overhear each other, make friends. A place where culture is transferred. This would not be an office. It would be something like a skunk works or team rooms. I use dense kitchen table layouts to do this.

This post, and discussion, can also be found on LinkedIn at Occupiers Journal (group)

by Roland Openshaw, Global lead for innovative workplace strategies at Pfizer Inc.


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