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Data – Information – Knowledge – Wisdom


This post brought to you by Christopher Abraham

I was recently reminded of a concept from my graduate school days – the Data / Information / Knowledge / Wisdom (DIKW) structure.  The CliffsNotes on this concept is that there is a fundamental hierarchical relationship between these four conceptual terms.


Business and governmental organizations today are awash in data; most companies drink from a “fire hose” of raw data, and store vastly more data than is relevant or actionable at any one given moment. Data is the “quanta” of the computerized world we live in; you can’t do much with it in that raw form, but as soon as you do shazam – you’ve got Information!
Information is Data that has been organized and presented in a way that allows for discovery of some basic questions about its relationship to the world (who, what, where, & when). Most business applications out there today count themselves successful if they can get raw data to the level of information. Certainly that output is an important one for most businesses, but as more and more businesses are realizing, information does not make for successful decision making. In order to make Data and Information actionable, end-users need to apply it to the real world and have an appreciation of the “how.” Turning this corner is the beginning of Knowledge.
Knowledge comes from accumulating the appropriate information and “seeing” (visualizing) or “appreciating” that information within a real-world context. Knowledge is the transformation of rote facts into principles or models that can help an end-user see “how” a trend or exception occurred, and not just inform “that” the exception occurred. This in turn may allow someone (or some thing) to take an action that can correct or alter the real-world processes that feed the data accumulation.


Wisdom is at the top of this hierarchy for good reason – it’s a long, long climb from individual datum to organizational (or even personal) wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to take Knowledge to a level of reflection and extrapolation that people begin to be able to answer the “why” (past) and “should we” (future) questions. I can tell you with certainty that IDV Solutions doesn’t have any warranties in our Service Level Agreement (SLA) that states our customers will gain wisdom from our products; but we do think that being able to visualize data and information in relationship to all its possible dimensions (including space/location and time) will give real people a shot at building the familiarity and experience that they need to begin answering the “Wisdom” questions about their business.


2 responses

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    September 5, 2008 at 4:32 pm

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