Consider the following simple scenario which helps explain the difference between data, information, and knowledge.
You are walking through a plant and notice the temperature gauge on pipe reads 600 F. This is a piece of data.
You walk into the plants control room and look at the computer monitor which shows you a graph of temperature readings on that same pipe. You can easily see the temperature in this pipe is rising rapidly and has been doing so over the last 12 hours. This is information you conclude when you look at the temperature data presented in a time series.
So, the information you have is that the temperature in the pipe is rising. But what do you do with that information? What do you need to know next? What is the knowledge you need to know right now?
You may conjure up questions like:
What is the normal operating temperature of that pipe?
Is it a dangerous situation?
What happens if the temperature keeps rising?
These are all good questions but the key knowledge needed at this point is “How do you react to the situation?”
Should you open a valve? If so, which one?
Should you sound the alarm, shut down production and evacuate the plant?
If you don’t have this knowledge, then you are essentially powerless.
Knowledge is the piece that allows you to make the right decision to any given situation. Knowledge is the piece that allows you to take effective action which will lead to a desirable outcome.
Knowledge management is about creating a managed system that routinely ensures people have the knowledge they need, in any circumstance, to make the right decision. It is a lot more than providing them with data or information. It is about providing people with know-how and capability.