Knowing What it All Means

You may have come across the DIKW hierarchy. It goes by various names, including the knowledge hierarchy and wisdom hierarchy. The Wikipedia page on the topic makes for interesting reading, but for now suffice it to say it goes something like this:

  • Data – discrete, objective facts, signals or symbols devoid of context and interpretation and therefore of no meaning or value.
  • Information – the result of structuring or organizing data in such a way as to give it meaning and relevance for a specific purpose or in a specific context.
  • Knowledge – the result of structuring or organizing information in such a way that it helps to form a framework for the incorporation of further information and aids the evaluation of the world, accruing experience, expertise and know-how.
  • Wisdom – my favourite definition of wisdom is the ability to make information super-useful. Often, wisdom is described as an amalgam of knowledge and judgement, resulting in ‘know-why’ in the form of ‘why do’ (rather than in the form of ‘why is’, which is information).

The journalist and broadcaster Miles Kington is attributed with the saying: ‘Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is knowing that a tomato doesn’t belong in a fruit salad.’ I’m not so sure. To me the first is information, the latter is knowledge, but this just exemplifies that the hierarchy is a bit blurry sometimes.

Nevertheless I raise DIKW because it is so much a part of the daily trials and tribulations ...

Get The Business of Influence: Reframing Marketing and PR for the Digital Age now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.