When objects are talking: How tacit knowing becomes explicit knowledge


  • Sarah Philipson University of Gävle, Kungsbäcksvägen 47, Gävle, Sweden, sarah.philipson@hig.se and Linnaeus University,, Universitetsplatsen 1, 352 52 Växjö, Sweden
  • Elisabeth Kjellström Lund University, Tycho Brahes väg 1, Lund, Sweden


The objective of this paper is to build a model of how tacit knowing is externalised and becomes reflected external knowledge. Knowledge Management (Nonaka, 1991, 1994; Nonaka, Toyama, & Konno, 2000) is an important field in Business Administration. Based on the model provided by Nonaka and his colleagues (Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka & Takeuchi, 1995; Nonaka et al., 2000) researchers and practitioners have fallen into the pipe dream that employees’ tacit knowing can be coded and canned in computers (structural capital), eventually leading to the enterprise without humans. Earlier critics (Gourlay, 2002, 2006; Gourlay & Nurse, 2005, Grant, 2007; Philipson, 2016, 2019) of the knowledge management paradigm have shown that it does not understand Polanyi’s concept tacit knowing and that it is much more complicated to “externalize” such knowing than presumed by KM. The understanding in extant management literature of this process has been very problematic. Building on concepts in philosophy, psychology, pedagogics, organizational science, and engineering, a model is built and exemplified. This paper develops a theoretical framework for how tacit knowing can be externalized, what is required for such an externalization, and discusses the problems in such externalization, limiting it.


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