There is probably no segment of activity in the world attracting as much attention at present as that of knowledge management. Yet as I entered this arena of activity I quickly found there didn't seem to be a wealth of sources that seemed to make sense in terms of defining what knowledge actually was, and how was it differentiated from data, information, and wisdom. What follows is the current level of understanding I have been able to piece together regarding data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. I figured to understand one of them I had to understand all of them. According to Russell Ackoff, a systems theorist and professor of organizational change, the content of the human mind can be classified into five categories: 1. Data: symbols
2. Information: data that are processed to be useful; provides answers to "who", "what", "where", and "when" questions 3. Knowledge: application of data and information; answers "how" questions 4. Understanding: appreciation of "why"
5. Wisdom: evaluated understanding.
Ackoff indicates that the first four categories relate to the past; they deal with what has been or what is known. Only the fifth category, wisdom, deals with the future because it incorporates vision and design. With wisdom, people can create the future rather than just grasp the present and past. But achieving wisdom isn't easy; people must move successively through the other categories. A further elaboration of Ackoff's definitions follows: Data... data is raw. It simply exists and has no significance beyond its existence (in and of itself). It can exist in any form, usable or not. It does not have meaning of itself. In computer parlance, a spreadsheet generally starts out by holding data. Information... information is data that has been given meaning by way of relational connection. This "meaning" can be useful, but does not have to be. In computer parlance, a relational...