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Learning from complex and heterogeneous experiences: the role of knowledge codification

Loubna Echajari (CNRS, GREDEG, Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis, Valbonne, France)
Catherine Thomas (CNRS, GREDEG, Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis, Valbonne, France)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 14 September 2015




The purpose of this paper is to study organizational learning from complex and heterogeneous experiences. According to March (2010), this kind of high intellect learning is difficult to accomplish because it requires deliberate investments in knowledge transfer and creation. Zollo and Winter (2002) emphasized how knowledge codification can facilitate this process, as long as it is “well-performed”. However, knowledge management scholars have yet to explore what is meant by well-performed codification and how to achieve it.


This paper addresses this gap and provides a conceptual analysis based on two related but previously disconnected research areas: organizational learning and knowledge management.


This paper contributes to the literature in three ways. First, a new understanding of different types of experiences and their effects on learning is proposed. Then the codification process using a critical realist paradigm to overcome the epistemological boundaries of knowledge versus knowing is discussed; in doing so, it is shown that codification can take different forms to be “well-performed”. Finally, appropriate codification strategies based on experience type are identified.


The abstraction-oriented codification outlined in this paper runs counter to the logic of concrete codification that dominates both theory and practice. Thus, going beyond the traditional debate on the degree of codification (i.e. should knowledge be fully codified or just partly codified), this paper introduced a new debate about the appropriate degree of abstraction.



The authors gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments of the participants in the 7th GeCSO Colloquium. The authors are especially thankful to the two anonymous reviewers for the valuable comments and suggestions they provided during the review process. This article is the result of a thoroughly collaborative co-authoring process.


Echajari, L. and Thomas, C. (2015), "Learning from complex and heterogeneous experiences: the role of knowledge codification", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 19 No. 5, pp. 968-986.



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