Monday, March 22, 2010

A simple definition of information and knowledge

"You can't manage knowledge. Knowledge is between two ears, and only between two ears"
Peter F Drucker.
I believe in keeping things simple, and here is my simple definition of knowledge and information:
Knowledge is what I already understand, and information is what I don’t yet understand but need to understand, to make a decision that helps me fulfill a purpose.
As a human being, I use my existing knowledge together with new information to make decisions about either performing or avoid actions, typically to achieve a purpose. In this process, I will hopefully turn any new information I receive into new knowledge. I might also share my knowledge, by creating messages that other people might be able to interpret, understand and apply to build new knowledge. The latter is very hard as it requires that I know what the recipients already know, and that I craft the message in way that connects to what they already know. This is a great challenge since I often don't know who the recipient is (like with this post).

Information is a received, interpreted and understood message, something that someone has expressed about something (maybe in writings in a Word document) and which I have received, interpreted and understood. To turn a message into information, the message must connect to some of the things (concepts) I already know about. Otherwise I won’t to be able to interpret and understand it. That is why I’m not capable of turning almost anything but the preface in my brother-in-law’s dissertation “Analysis of the RAP1 protein binding to homogeneous telomeric repeats in Saccharomyces castellii” to information. Most if it is just noise to me.

My knowledge in the eyes of others rely on any evidence that I can apply a message that I have received, interpreted and understood. Such evidence typically comes from the results of my decisions and actions, or avoidance of action, when pursuing a purpose.


  1. Oscar, what Drucker said about knowledge equally applies to information: it cannot exist outside the person! I rather believe that the difference between Knowledge and Information is as much quantitative as it is qualitative. The term 'well informed decision' assumes that (true) knowledge involves 'enough of the right' information.
    The formula for knowledge I mostly use is K=I*ESA whereK stands for Knowledge and I stands for Information, and then E for Experience, S for Skills and A for Attitude. So, similarity between Knowledge and Information is that both cannot exist outside the person, and the difference is that Information is a part of Knowledge.

  2. Hi Paul, nice to meet you here and not only on Twitter. I agree 100% and I don't think I talk about information as something external in the blog post. Rather, I talk about information as a message that has been recieved, interpreted and understood. If that does not happen, it is just noice that we filter out. The illustration I used isn't meant to illustrate what is happening outside or inside a person's mind, but rather to illustrate the relationships between info and knowledge.