Ikujiro Nonaka

Organizational theorist, pioneer of knowledge management.


The recipient of the Thinkers50 2013 Lifetime Acheivement Award


Conferred with a Purple Ribbon Medal by the Japanese government.


Ranked number 20 in the Wall Street Journal’s ‘Most Influential Business Thinkers’ in 2008.


Nonaka has furthered our knowledge of Japanese management. He has helped build mutual understanding and led the way in how we understand the importance of knowledge as a competitive advantage. With an ambition to develop a new, original, made-in-Japan theory, rather than borrowing theories from elsewhere, Nonaka’s best-known work is in knowledge management. Wise leaders, he says, create shared contexts or dynamic ba; articulate and communicate reality as a story; exercise political power to realize such a story; and foster practical wisdom (phronesis) in others to continue their transformation journey.


Nonaka’s interest in management and organization came while working for Fuji Electric, which he joined in 1958. He noticed that most of the new theories and methods introduced in Japan were coming from the US, so he quit his job and left to study in the US. Nonaka gained his MBA and PhD from the University of California at Berkeley. He was the First Distinguished Drucker Scholar in Residence at the Drucker School and Institute, Claremont Graduate University; and the Xerox Distinguished Faculty Scholar, Institute of Management, Innovation and Organization, UC Berkeley. Back in Japan he became professor at the Graduate School of International Corporate Strategy of Hitotsubashi University.


The Knowledge-Creating Company: How Japanese Companies Create the Dynamics of Innovation (with Hirotaka Takeuchi, 1995); Enabling Knowledge Creation (with G von Krogh and K Ichijo, 2000); Hitotsubashi on Knowledge Management (with co-authors, 2003); The Essence of Innovation (with A Katsumi, 2004); The Essence of Strategy (with co-authors, 2005); Managing Flow (with T Hirata and R Toyama, 2008); The Core of Organization is People (with H Sakai, H Yoshida, T Sakikawa, T Hirata, K Isomura and Yasunobu Narita, 2009); The Philosophy-Creating Company (with K Genma, T Hirata, K Isomura and Yasunobu NARITA, 2012).


Media picks


“One of the giants of business thinking in the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame.”

Stuart Crainer & Des Dearlove, Thinkers50

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