Monday, October 11, 2010

The Wisdom Hierarchy

The Wisdom hierarchy is often mentioned in passing and for a lot of folks is a new topic. It is, however, a great way to gauge the state of an organizations’ (or teams, or even individuals) depth of understanding of a topic.

The components of the Wisdom Hierarchy consist of Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom. The first component, Data, is simply that. Usually data is a list of numbers that provide almost no meaning to anyone, unless they are connected in some way to some context. Typically data is unorganized and unprocessed.

Information, the next evolution in the hierarchy, is described as “organized or structured data, which has been processed in such a way that the information now has relevance for a specific purpose or context, and is therefore meaningful, valuable, useful and relevant”.

Knowledge is then derived from information, also applying experiences and insights gained through true cognitive and analytical activity. If someone "memorizes" information, then they have amassed knowledge. This knowledge has useful meaning to them, but it does not provide for, in and of itself, a way to further the knowledge.

Wisdom is the accumulation of the previous levels along with a deep understanding that enables the ability to increase effectiveness.

As readers may have guessed, it is the ability to operate at levels of wisdom that every individual, team and organization should aspire towards. However, how is this to be accomplished? Why, with proper process improvement techniques in place, of course.