From Knowledge-Creation to Perfecting Action: Tao, Basho and Pure Experience as the Ultimate Ground of Performance

Robert Cheng Chia

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    118 Citations (Scopus)


    The idea of knowledge-creation and knowledge management has become an important area of research in management studies. This preoccupation with the creation and accumulation of knowledge in its explicit representational form is underpinned by the epistemological priorities of an alphabetic-literate culture that takes written knowledge as the only reliable basis for effective action. Documented knowledge necessarily precedes and hence determines action and performance. Such a metaphysical orientation precludes the possibility of attaining a form of direct unmediated knowing through the relentless perfecting of action. In traditionally based oral-aural communities or in non-alphabetic East Asian cultures knowing is more often achieved directly through the immediate engagement of tasks rather than through the acquisition of abstract written signs and symbols: learning by direct observation and doing is the order of the day. Consequently, there is little systematic documenting and recording of knowledge in the written form that one finds in abundance in contemporary western cultures. Yet this apparent lack has not prevented such predominantly non-alphabetic eastern cultures from achieving outstanding levels of performance in the arts, sport and in business. This would suggest that the current obsession with knowledge-creation and the presumed route of knowledge-creation-application-performance is a peculiarly western preoccupation and that it represents only one avenue of possibility for achieving effective action. This has significant implications for our understanding of the relationship among knowledge, action and performance.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)953-981
    Number of pages29
    JournalHuman Relations
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2003


    • absolute nothingness
    • Ba
    • correlative thinking
    • pure experience
    • sinism
    • theory-in-use
    • trans-individual
    • unlearning


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