Journal of Management Information Systems

Volume 16 Number 3 1999 pp. 103-117

Data Is More Than Knowledge: Implications of the Reversed Knowledge Hierarchy for Knowledge Management and Organizational Memory

Tuomi, Ilkka

ABSTRACT: The knowledge management literature often points out the importance of distinguishing among data, information, and knowledge. The generally accepted view sees data as simple facts that become information as data are combined into meaningful structures, which subsequently become knowledge as meaningful information is put into a context and when it can be used to make predictions. According to this view, data are a prerequisite for information, and information is a prerequisite for knowledge. This paper explores the conceptual hierarchy of data, information, and knowledge, showing that data emerge only after we have information, and that information emerges only after we already have knowledge. The reversed hierarchy of knowledge is shown to lead to a different approach in developing information systems that support knowledge management and organizational memory. It is also argued that this difference may have major implications for organizational flexibility and renewal.

Key words and phrases: information, knowledge, knowledge management