W1: Data, Information and Knowledge

What does it all mean?

Data, information and knowledge. The backbone of any organisation, but useless without understanding how to manage any and all three. Before we can discuss the intricacies of knowledge management, let us first attempt to understand what these words mean exactly.

“Data is a set of discrete facts.”

Data can be interpreted as sets of analytics (i.e. numbers, results, performances) that with the correct context, can turn into information.

“Usually considered facts and figures, information”.



Information is what is a result of processing data. Upon sourcing data and organising it in a way that is able to be processed, we may be able to produce meaningful insight which upon learning, gives people knowledge. Information is very powerful in business, but only as much as how it is interpreted.


Knowledge is essentially the understanding of the information. Knowledge is the key in the pyramid. The more you as an individual know, the more valuable you become. Knowledge needs to be applied before you start gathering data or using information. Bear in mind that it always pays to be critical of the data and of the information, where it is sourced, how reliable it is and whether it is relevant. This includes your own knowledge.


Very simply, wisdom is the ability to use the knowledge in order to make the right decisions.

What does it mean, to “know”?

Philosophical question. We “know” something when we have a justified true belief, we believe something to be true based on our experience. Only then can we say we know something.

  • Can be refuted logically/socially/culturally, as we all seem to “know” different things. We all seem to have justified “true beliefs” that are contrary.
  • We can still have a definition of “knowing” that is able to be applied to KM.

Classification of explicit knowledge vs. tacit knowledge

There are a number of key defining differences between explicit and tacit knowledge. Explicit knowledge refers to knowledge that has been ‘codified’ and expressed as information in databases, documents or other sources that is able to be read and processed. Tacit refers basically refers to the knowledge that is in people’s heads.

Tacit knowledge:

  • Knowledge that is ‘inside our heads’
  • Based on our learned experience
  • Sometimes difficult to convey on to others, due to the personalised way we have interpreted it and processed it against our own experiences
  • More difficult to share – “requires person-to-person interaction, shared mental models, good relationships.”

Explicit knowledge:

  • Knowledge that has been encoded, transcribed.
  • In writing, or in symbol that can be read or understand.
  • Easier to share – is able to be put it in an information system from which it can be accessed and understood.

Other types:

  • Functional knowledge
  • Structural knowledge
  • Embedded knowledge

Embedded knowledge is another taxonomy of knowledge, it refers to the knowledge that is locked into processes, products, cultures, routines, artefacts or structures.

This type of knowledge is best-managed through rules, processes, manuals, organisational culture, code of conduct, ethics, etc. While this can be viewed as explicit knowledge, these tools are considered embedded as the knowledge itself is not explicit i.e. it is not immediately apparent why conducting in such a way is beneficial to an organisation.


  1.  Podcast week 2, David Pauleen.
  2. KM Basics
  3. The Different Types of Knowledge

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