Nonaka’s Theory of Knowledge Creation

In the previous section, we reviewed the current state of research into organizational learning in Asia outside Japan, and concluded that indigenous Asian perspectives on the field are generally rare or under-developed. The tendency has been for Asia-based researchers to follow research traditions that have been imported from either North America or Europe, rather than developing emic approaches (Meyer, 2006).

There is, however, one notable exception, in the form of the work of Professor Ikujiro Nonaka of Hitotsubashi University, who, over two decades, through decoding the principles that underpin the innovative capability of Japanese organizations (Nonaka, 1988; Takeuchi and Nonaka, 1986) has developed a dynamic theory of knowledge creation in Japanese firms (Ichijo and Nonaka, 2007; Nonaka, 1991, 1994; Nonaka and Konno, 1998; Nonaka and Nishiguchi, 2001; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Nonaka and Toyama, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007; Nonaka et al., 2000a, 2000b, 2006; von Krogh, Ichijo and Nonaka, 2000). Nonaka’s research, which draws on data from inside Japan, provides highly credible insights into the dynamics of knowledge creation within a dozen or more large and successful Japanese multinationals across various industries (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995). However, doubts remain concerning the universality of the theory (Glisby and Holden, 2003; Gourlay, 2006; Gueldenberg and Helting, 2007; Weir and Hutchings, 2005), and hence about the transferability ...

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