“Information is not knowledge.” ― Albert Einstein
Many people assume that information and knowledge are interchangeable terms, used to – more or less- describe the same thing. However this is not the case. There is a considerable difference in the meanings of both information and knowledge, and that will be addressed in this blog post.
Firstly, it is critical to define what information and knowledge are. However it may be useful if firstly it is understood what ‘data’ are. According to Joanne Roberts, the author of A Very Short, Fairly Interesting and Reasonably Cheap Book about Knowledge Management, data, information and knowledge can be defined as follows:
Data: Data are usually a collection of facts or written-down observations produced by people, or generated by computers. These data are usually random and often come in the form of words, numbers, images, and sometimes sounds. In their raw form, data can not be properly understood as they are incoherent, but when sorted through they form the foundation of information.
Information: Information is the ‘second form’ of data. Here is where raw data has been organised into meaningful patterns or segments. Data becomes information in this level as the element of analysis is integrated. Once the data has been analysed, people are then able to understand the information that has come from it. Information can then be presented in a report, a graph, or charts, in order to communicate its meaning.
Knowledge: Knowledge is the ‘third form’ of data, or the ‘second form’ of information. Knowledge occurs when information is applied in a thoughtful and productive way. The key difference between knowledge and information is that knowledge involves one being aware of certain things around them, or having an understanding of certain experiences or learning moments.
Both information and knowledge are aspects people come across many times a day throughout their lives. When people can apply the information they already know about certain things, then that can transfer into a general knowledge, and competent understanding of the world around them.
However, it may be important to know that there is not just one type of knowledge. The two most common types of knowledge are explicit and tacit knowledge.
Explicit knowledge is a type of knowledge that can be easily understood and transferred from one person to another, such as how to bake a cake or the ways in which to write a report.
Tacit knowledge is knowledge that can be extremely difficult to personally understand, and is often very difficult to transmit to others. This type of knowledge can be likened to balance. It is something you know how to do, but cannot explain to others how to do it themselves.
Albert Einstein was a theoretical physicist from Germany who lived between 1879 and 1955, and is regarded as one of the most intelligent minds the world has ever seen. Across the internet, there are many famous quotes from Einstein, and one famous one is:
Often this quote confuses people, primarily because they do not understand the fundamental differences between both information and knowledge respectively. However, The full quote is actually “Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.” (Source) Perhaps those who do not necessarily understand the differences between information and knowledge may understand the true meaning of the quote when given the second half.
Information and knowledge are both critical aspects to the success and future of any business. Businesses can be provided with information that may help them to strategically plan how they may move the business forward in the future. When the information is properly processed and understood, depending on what it pertains to, will depend on the types of knowledge that managers will carry with them throughout their careers. For example, if a company recieves information that suggests the business should not enter into a certain industry otherwise they may lose money, then once properly processed and understood, managers will have the knowledge to ensure that similar industries are not considered for entrepreneurial activity in the future.
Once a business has a deep understanding of information and knowledge and how both these aspects are critical to the success of the firm, then they may progress forward into the future with confidence in their longevity and profitability.