Thursday, December 29, 2011

Knowledge Management: Distinguishing the difference between data, information, and knowledge

Knowledge management deals with capturing implicit and explicit knowledge within an organization, at the individual level as well as the team and/or group level.  Turner, Zimmerman, and Allen (in press) made the distinction that "knowledge management is more than just information management" (p. 3), it deals with creating, storing, and retrieving an organizations' collective knowledge.  In doing so, knowledge management makes the distinction between data, information, and knowledge.  

Davenport and Prusak (1998) distinguished data as "a set of discrete, objective facts about events" (p. 2) compared to information in which they described to be more like a message - typically in audible, visual, or digital form.  Knowledge is further separated from data and information by Davenport and Prusak's (1998) working definition:

      Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information.  It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers.  In organizations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, practices, and norms (p. 5). 

Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) contrasted knowledge from information by making three observations:

  1. Knowledge, unlike information, is about beliefs and commitment.  Knowledge is a function of a particular stance, perspective, or intention.
  2. Knowledge… is about action.
  3. Knowledge… is about meaning.  It is context-specific and relational (p. 58).

Managing knowledge, rather than data or information, in an organization is critical to its' success.  For it is from this knowledge that innovation is spurred, new products are developed, and new customers are gained.  Drucker (2006) highlighted that every organization needs to be devoted to creating the new.  Drucker (2006) identified three systematic practices for organizations to complete this process, which includes the functions of knowledge management:

  1. The first is continuing improvement of everything the organization does, the process the Japanese call kaizen.
  2. Second, every organization will have to learn to exploit its knowledge, that is, to develop the next generation of applications from its own successes.
  3. Finally, every organization will have to learn to innovate… as a systematic process (pp. 142-143).


Davenport, T. H. & Prusak, L. (1998). Working knowledge: How organizations manage what they know.  Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Drucker, P. F. (2006). Classic Drucker: Essential wisdom of Peter Drucker from the pages of Harvard Business Review. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Publishing. 

Nonaka, I. & Takeuchi, H. (1995). The knowledge-creating company: How Japanese Companies create the dynamics of innovation.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Turner, J. R., Zimmerman, T., & Allen, J. M. (in press). Teams as a process for knowledge management.  
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