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Author: Elyse, PMP, CPHIMS
November 2, 2009


Ever get a spreadsheet filled with just Data, and then have the analyst say. "Is that what you were looking for?" Over on the ITIL Community site, a recent discussion on DIKW elegantly clarified the model.

<-- Snipped from discussion -->
The DIKW model assumes the following chain of action:

  • Data comes in the form of raw observations and measurements (used as a basis for reasoning, discussion, or calculation).

  • Information is created by analyzing relationships and connections between the data. It is capable of answering simple "who/what/where/when/why" style questions. Information is a message, and consider the audience and the purpose.

  • Knowledge is created by using the information for action. Knowledge answers the question "how". Knowledge is a local practice or relationship that works.

  • Wisdom is created through use of knowledge, through the communication of knowledge users, and through reflection. Wisdom deals with the future, as it takes implications and lagged effects into account

Data has commonly been seen as simple facts that can be structured to become information. Information, in turn, becomes knowledge when it is interpreted, put into context, or when meaning is added to it. The common idea is that data is something less than information, and information is less than knowledge. Moreover, it is assumed that we first need to have data before information can be created, and only when we have information, can knowledge emerge.


According to these definitions, data is the basic unit of information, which in turn is the basic unit of knowledge, which itself is the basic unit of wisdom. So, there are four levels in the understanding and decision-making hierarchy. The whole purpose in collecting data, information, and knowledge is to be able to make wise decisions. However, if the data sources are flawed, then in most cases the resulting decisions will also be flawed.

The reason for a knowledge management system are to validate, to direct, to justify and to intervene or put simple "to make decisions".

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