Adaptive Action to Aspiration: Bridging the Dynamics of Strategizing and Organizational Learning (Part 2 of 2)

A Think Piece by Dr. Yee Lai Fong, Consultant, Capelle Consulting

Given a volatile and uncertain environment, we need to move away from traditional approaches to strategic planning that assume a stable and knowable future, toward a more agile and adaptive approach; while guided by a broad strategic direction toward achieving these shared aspirations.1 Organizational learning becomes the fuel in this adaptive process as the organization generates learning insights through adaptive action, and uses these experiences to create new knowledge that is shared across the organization.

The Part 2 of this think piece integrates three frames together to illustrate how we might bridge the dynamics of strategizing and organizational learning through adaptive action toward achieving our shared aspirations.

Part 1 of this article, I introduced the following:

  • 1st Frame: S.O.A.R. — a strength-based approach to strategic planning; and
  • 2nd Frame: S.O.L.E. — prioritizing projects while allowing room for exploration and experimentation

To string the three frames together, I will discuss the 3rd Frame: S.E.C.I.


3rd Frame: S.E.C.I. – a dynamic view of organizational learning & knowledge creation

The S.E.C.I. frame originated from Ikujiro Nonaka’s research on a dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation that addresses both the stock and flow of knowledge (Nonaka, 1994).

The central theme is that organizational knowledge is created through a continuous dialogue between tacit and explicit knowledge. This continuous dialogue is depicted by the following four patterns of interaction:

  • Socialization, that is Tacit to Tacit – where knowledge is passed on through practice, guidance, imitation and observation;
  • Externalization, that is Tacit to Explicit – the process of capturing and codifying tacit knowledge into documents like standard operating procedures (SOPs) or manuals, to facilitate communication and sharing across the organization;
  • Combination, that is Explicit to Explicit – where codified knowledge (e.g. SOPs, recipes, design blueprints) are combined to create new knowledge; and
  • Internalization, that is Explicit to Tacit – as explicit knowledge is put to use, the knowledge is internalized by individuals, modifying their existing tacit knowledge in the process.

These four patterns of interactions form a continuous circular process enabling new knowledge (stock) to be generated and facilitating the flow of such knowledge across the organization.


Putting the Three Frames Together


By connecting these three frames, I would like to invite us to think about the following as we enter the new year:

  • How might we create greater synergy between strategic planning and organizational learning? What role can HR play in facilitating organizational learning?
  • How might co-creation and experimentation look like in our engagement with both internal and external stakeholders?
  • How might insights from critical incidents and operational audits contribute to building organizational knowledge and expand our capacity for learning?
  • What does thinking ahead, thinking across and thinking again mean in our organization? How might these three dynamic organizational capabilities shape the way we respond in a volatile and uncertain environment?


Anderson, A. (2005). The community builder’s approach to theory of change: A practical guide to theory and development. New York: The Aspen Institute Roundtable on Community Change.

Engestrom, Y. (2001). Expansive learning at work: Toward an activity theoretical reconceptualization. Journal of Education and Work, 14(1), 133-156.

Neo, B. S., & Chen, G. (2007). Dynamic governance: Embedding culture, capabilities and change in Singapore. New Jersey: World Scientific.

Nonaka, I. (1994). A dynamic theory of organizational knowledge creation. Organisation Science, 5, 14-37.

Senge, P. (1990). The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organisation. New York: Doubledy/Currency.

Stavros, J. (2020). SOAR 2020 and beyond: Strategy, systems innovation and stakeholder engagement. AI Practitioner, 22(2), 70-91, doi: 10.12781/978-1-907549-43-4-11



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