The Concept of “Ba”

“Ba can be thought of as a shared space for emerging relationships.” This is a quote from Nonaka’s paper called (surprise): “The concept of ‘Ba.'”

Why is this important?

Takeuchi and Nonaka work at a famous business school in Japan. They have been working on New Product Development to understand how and why some firms have such market success with new products. One of their lines of thinking is that new products are developed by the creation of new knowledge. This is related to the conversion of someone’s tacit knowledge (e.g., the tacit knowledge a customer has of his or her own needs) into the explicit knowledge of a small team. This small team is then able to convert that created knowledge into the creation of a new product.

Takeuchi and Nonaka (and their associates) have said that Ba is the place (context) in which (a) the tacit knowledge is converted, and (b) the place (context) that invests the team with the ability to make creative discoveries of new products.

So, software development is about creativity.

I urge you to read and understand “Ba,” to try to create multiple Ba’s for your teams. It is a simple concept, like love, but also a most intricate one as well (not unlike real love). (Or, if you have “love your enemies” completely figured out, please write and explain it to me.)

Here are some places to look:

“The Concept of ‘Ba'” by Ikujiro Nonaka and Noboru Konno (an article from the California Management Review).

A good review on the web. In the context of knowledge management (which Takeuchi and Nonaka say should be more focused on knowledge creation).

“Building Ba to Enhance Knowledge Creation and Innovation at Large Firms” by Nonaka, Toyama and Scharmer.

You must (in my opinion) also read Takeuchi and Nonaka’s HBR paper called The New New Product Development Game.” It is directly from this paper that Scrum was created, and the mention of Scrum was in this paper, thus Sutherland and Schwaber gave that name to what we now call Scrum. I think you can see the concept of Ba germinate in the minds of Takeuchi and Nonaka.

Lastly, I suggest a book I think you must read. It has an ungainly title. The book is a group of articles; several are directly about the concept of “Ba.” You must read it to create “Ba” (place) to help your teams to greater success for your firm and your customers.

“Hitotsubashi on Knowledge Management by Hirotaka Takeuchi. 



« « Little’s Second Law: “People are remarkably good at doing…” || 5 Whys: To get better, ask why. » »

Tagged: Tags: , , ,

3 thoughts on “The Concept of “Ba”

  1. Tom Mellor

    Good post, Joe. More people should understand “ba” but then more people ought to understand lean and agile, too. Alas, lots of work for us to do. Thanks. Tom

  2. jhlittle Post author

    Tom, thanks for your kind words, and especially meaningful to me, coming from you. Indeed, for all of us, we need to learn more. Reality is more than our minds can comprehend. We need to learn more. I call the basic area ‘lean-agile-scrum’, but it is really more than scrum. And that is just what we need to learn about to be more effective at work. (And of course there is more to life than just work.) Thanks, Joe

Leave a Reply