DIKW Pyramid

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

DIKW framework describes a hierarchical relationship between data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. The hierarchy referred to variously as the ‘Knowledge Hierarchy’, the ‘Information Hierarchy’ and the ‘Knowledge Pyramid’ is one of the fundamental, widely recognized models in the information and knowledge literatures. It is often quoted, or used implicitly, in definitions of data, information, and knowledge in the information management, information systems and knowledge management literatures.1 Typically information is defined in terms of data, knowledge in terms of information, and wisdom in terms of knowledge, but there is less consensus in the description of the processes that transform elements lower in the hierarchy into those above them.2


Data comes in the form of signs and signals, such as numbers, words or other signs that represent discrete facts about an objective reality. Data can be described with reference to objective metrics and thus can be verified and decisively proven to be correct or incorrect. Data is an organized string of symbols that represents something, a set of signs that represent empirical stimuli or perception. They are unorganized and without interpretation and thus data has no meaning. We can use automated computation to capture and sort data


Information comes from providing context to data. It is data that has been endowed with meaning and purpose. Information can be used to answer interrogative questions such as “who”, “what”, “where”, “how many”, “when” etc.


Knowledge is the synthesis of multiple sources of information over time, to create conceptual frameworks, theories, and axioms. Knowledge gives context through experiences, values, and insight; enabling judgment based upon justifiable belief. Knowledge is tacit, it has a subjective dimension to it, meaning once made symbolic, and objective, knowledge is reduced to information. As Einstein said “knowledge comes from experience, everything else is information.”


Wisdom is a state of awareness, a paradigm or set of principles; it is the ultimate context and frame of reference. Wisdom is the ability to use knowledge to make correct judgments in response to a unique context, without the aid of facts. Wisdom is the know why, an evaluated understanding, acceptance and appreciation of why something is the way it is, it is seeing the whole. Wisdom involves knowing the right things to do, for the greater good. It requires a sense of what is right and wrong, ethical and unethical. It is most uniquely human.

Pyramid Structure

The knowledge pyramid defines a purported functional relationship between information and knowledge, where lower levels comprise the material or building blocks for the higher levels.3 Going up the hierarchy requires synthetic reasoning that integrates and synthesizes the building blocks into more organized and generic patterns. Going down the hierarchy involves analytical reasoning, wherein more generalized concepts are broken down into their constituent parts. Moving up or down the hierarchy defines a process that involves greater, meaning, context, subjectivity, and automation.4 The DIKW framework is believed to define a fundamental structure to information and knowledge.

Systems Innovation

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