6.4 Boisot's KM Model

6.4 Boisot’s KM Model

          In 1998, Boisot  (1998) proposes a model for knowledge asset development. His model introduces an extra dimension ‘abstraction’ to Nonaka's SECI model. The model emphasizes that knowledge can be generalized to different situations. This produces a richer scheme allowing the flow and transformation of knowledge to be analyzed in a greater detail.  Boisot (1998) proposes the following two key points:

  • The more easily data can be structured and converted into information, the more diffusible it becomes.
  • The less data that has been so structured requires a shared context for its diffusion, the more diffusible it becomes.

Image is available in the printed copy of the book           Boisot's model can be visualized as three dimensional cube with the following dimensions:  (i) from "uncodified" to "codified", (ii) from "concrete" to "abstract", (iii) from "undiffused" to "diffused". He proposes a "Social Learning Cycle" (SLC) that uses the I-Space to model the dynamic flow of knowledge through a series of six phases:

  • Scanning: insights are gained from generally available (diffused) data
  • Problem-Solving: problems are solved giving structure and coherence to these insights (knowledge becomes 'codified')
  • Abstraction: the newly codified insights are generalized to a wide range of situations (knowledge becomes more 'abstract')
  • Diffusion: the new insights are shared with a target population in a codified and abstract form (knowledge becomes 'diffused')
  • Absorption: the newly codified insights are applied to a variety of situations producing new learning experiences (knowledge is absorbed and produces learnt behaviour and so becomes 'uncodified', or 'tacit')
  • Impacting: abstract knowledge becomes embedded in concrete practices, for example in artifacts, rules or behaviour patterns (knowledge becomes 'concrete')

          The proposed Social Learning Cycle (SLC) serves to link content, information, and knowledge management in a very effective way - the codification dimension is linked to categorization and classification; the abstraction dimension is linked to knowledge creation, and the diffusion dimension is linked to information access and transfer. In his model, Boisot derives an interesting analogy from the laws of thermodynamics in which knowledge assets that are highly abstract, highly codified and highly undiffused, are seen to be the most ordered and so have the lowest rate of entropy, therefore have maximum potential for performing value-adding work.

          Knowledge assets at the opposite extreme of the I-Space (least abstract, least codified and most diffused) have the highest level of entropy; therefore, have the least potential for performing value-adding work. Organization pursuing competitive advantage needs to move their knowledge assets into the region of minimum entropy. An important aspect of SLC is the recognition of the elusive and dynamic nature of knowledge. It means that data is filtered to produce meaningful information and this information is then abstracted and codified to produce useful knowledge. Consequently, knowledge is applied in diverse situations, hence produces new experiences that produces data for a new cycle of knowledge creation.    

          Another important conjecture of Boisot's model is that it considers organizations as living organisms. Their process of growing and developing knowledge assets within organizations is always changing. This means that organizations need to adopt a dynamic KM strategy which accommodates the dynamicity of the organizational learning cycle.