by Leon Rosenshein

Data, Information, Knowledge, And Wisdom

We like to say we're a data driven company and we have a data driven culture, and that's good. But what does it mean? Ideally,  being data driven means using current and past information to make knowledgeable decisions and plans to encourage a desired future outcome.

There's a lot to unpack there, so let's just dive into 3 of those words, data, information, and knowledge.

The first thing to realize is that while on the surface they're similar, they are not the same thing. And you have to understand those differences before you can go deeper. So here's my take on those 3.

Data - The raw numbers. Units produced, latency, number of riders. That sort of thing. It is explicitly measurable. The important part here is to keep it accurate. The data forms the foundation of the hierarchy, so if you put garbage in you get garbage out. Your data needs to account for everything. If your units produced only counts accepted units you better have another datastream that includes the units attempted but weren't produced.

Information - The data in context. How do the data points relate to each other? One of the key contexts is time. The same measurement (that units produced again), but over the last day, week, month, year, and compared to other time periods. Also how one datastream relates to another. Like units produced/units attempted`. Because how the data relates to itself is important.

Knowledge - Combining experience and information to learn. Knowledge lets us separate the driving forces from the results. Knowledge shows you what levers you have to pull and gives you some indication of what the results will be if you pull the lever. By itself, knowledge doesn't tell you which levers to pull or when.

Wisdom - Here's a bonus term. Wisdom is having the knowledge of how things that are not captured in your data will impact what you're trying to do. Things like culture, both company and external. Or what your competitors might do. 

Like many other things, it's a continuum, from the small scale point of data to the strategic wisdom, and not everything fits exactly into one box.

I'll have more to say about what being data driven means at some point in the future, but meanwhile, how do you define data, information, knowledge, and wisdom?