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If Nelson and Winter are only half right about tacit knowledge, which half? A Searlean critique of 'codification'

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  • Paul Nightingale

Abstract

The paper explores the inherent tensions in the relationships between different theories of knowledge. The paper shows how Polanyi's rather nebulous concept of tacit knowledge can be given a rigorous foundation in recent biological treatments that link neurological causal processes, subjective mental states and speech acts. Drawing on the work of John Searle, the paper shows how information-processing approaches relate to these 'cause and effect' relationships in order to critique the binary distinction between tacit and codified knowledge. The utility of the framework and the problems with this binary distinction are illustrated by showing the confusions behind recent theories that propose that information technologies allow the codification of tacit knowledge. Errors inherent in the idea of codification are traced back to Newell and Simon's abstract 'programme level' of explanation. Implications for science policy, technical learning, management and innovation are discussed. Copyright 2003, Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Paul Nightingale, 2003. "If Nelson and Winter are only half right about tacit knowledge, which half? A Searlean critique of 'codification'," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(2), pages 149-183, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:indcch:v:12:y:2003:i:2:p:149-183
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    Cited by:

    1. Prencipe, Andrea & Tell, Fredrik, 2001. "Inter-project learning: processes and outcomes of knowledge codification in project-based firms," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(9), pages 1373-1394, December.
    2. Manlio Giudice & Maria Della Peruta & Vincenzo Maggioni, 2013. "Collective Knowledge and Organizational Routines within Academic Communities of Practice: an Empirical Research on Science–Entrepreneurs," Journal of the Knowledge Economy, Springer;Portland International Center for Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET), vol. 4(3), pages 260-278, September.
    3. Giovanni Dosi & Richard Nelson, 2013. "The Evolution of Technologies: An Assessment of the State-of-the-Art," Eurasian Business Review, Springer;Eurasia Business and Economics Society, vol. 3(1), pages 3-46, June.
    4. Ljubica Nedelkoska, 2010. "Occupations at risk: explicit task content and job security," Working Papers 2010/48, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    5. Dosi, Giovanni & Nelson, Richard R., 2010. "Technical Change and Industrial Dynamics as Evolutionary Processes," Handbook of the Economics of Innovation, Elsevier.
    6. Koen Frenken, 2010. "Geography of Scientific Knowledge: A Proximity Approach," Working Papers 10-01, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies, revised Mar 2010.
    7. Lazaric, Nathalie & Mangolte, Pierre-Andre & Massue, Marie-Laure, 2003. "Articulation and codification of collective know-how in the steel industry: evidence from blast furnace control in France," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(10), pages 1829-1847, December.
    8. Biggiero, Lucio, 2007. "Organizations as congitive systems :what do they process and deliver?," MPRA Paper 3089, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. Paul Nightingale, 2012. "Tacit Knowledge," Chapters,in: Handbook of Knowledge and Economics, chapter 17 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    10. Manuel Lopez-Estornell, 2011. "The diffusion of knowledge in industrial districts and clusters," ERSA conference papers ersa11p368, European Regional Science Association.
    11. Dolfsma, W.A. & McMaster, R. & Finch, J., 2005. "Institutions, Institutional Change, Language, and Searle," ERIM Report Series Research in Management ERS-2005-067-ORG, Erasmus Research Institute of Management (ERIM), ERIM is the joint research institute of the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University and the Erasmus School of Economics (ESE) at Erasmus University Rotterdam.
    12. Manlio Del Giudice & Maria Della Peruta & Vincenzo Maggioni, 2013. "The ‘Right’ Knowledge and Spin-off Processes: an Empirical Analysis on Knowledge Transfer," Journal of the Knowledge Economy, Springer;Portland International Center for Management of Engineering and Technology (PICMET), vol. 4(3), pages 304-318, September.
    13. Nightingale, Paul, 2004. "Technological capabilities, invisible infrastructure and the un-social construction of predictability: the overlooked fixed costs of useful research," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(9), pages 1259-1284, November.

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