Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom (DIKW) hierarchy

Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom (DIKW) hierarchy

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The Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom (DIKW) hierarchy is illustrated in the form of a pyramid comprising of four levels. [1] A progression is indicated as you move through each level starting at the base of the pyramid and reaching the top.

The process begins by gathering Data, at the first level, which is then processed to form Information at the second level. When this Information is examined or considered it takes the form of Knowledge, at the third level, and the creation of Knowledge leads to acquiring Wisdom at the fourth or topmost level. Data, forming the base of the hierarchy, can be compiled either manually or through automated systems and value is added to these inputs by interpreting and converting them into a useable and meaningful format termed as Information. When Information is applied in a particular situation and converted to expertise it comes to be defined as Knowledge. Wisdom is found at the pinnacle of the DIKW hierarchy and differs from data and information, both of which can be harnessed, and also from knowledge which can be shared. Wisdom is more abstract as it is something intrinsic and is typically an accumulation of values, judgements, prior experience or interpretations.

In organisations, Data and Information are seen as tools to perform tasks and improve operations, while implementing systems and practices creates Knowledge, and the building-up of Knowledge through which transformations and learning takes place generates Wisdom.


Toolkit.png Applying the DIKW hierarchy in an organisational setting

The DIKW hierarchy is a knowledge management mechanism that can be used in organisations for considering issues in parts.

Mapping organisational issues through the DIKW hierarchy:

  • Data: Identify the raw external inputs such as facts and figures that are yet to be interpreted.
  • Information: Analyse data to determine what is known about organisational needs. A key point to note about this step is that information management can be useful for not only answering questions but also for finding solutions in organisational contexts.
  • Knowledge: Ascertain how something is known by an individual or how information is applied by them. This is a useful practice for enhancing an organisation’s intellectual capital.
  • Wisdom: Uncover why knowledge is applied by individuals in specific ways, for example in relation to decision-making.

Moving from information management to knowledge management in organisations:

The key difference between the Information and Knowledge levels in the DIKW hierarchy is the role of individuals in the latter. Knowledge is created when individuals choose and consolidate the required Information for attaining specific outcomes.

Organisations can prevent Information from being retained in a stagnant format and enable its transformation into Knowledge by:

  • Fostering trust within the organisation;
  • Providing guidance on, and resources for, the process;
  • Harmonizing or developing structures and procedures where necessary;
  • Focussing on exchanges by creating networks;
  • Keeping in mind that this is a continuous process.

Relevance of promoting knowledge management within organisations:

Promoting a knowledge management culture allows an organisation to assemble and classify Knowledge for determining key patterns which, when accumulated over time, come to form organisational Wisdom. The benefit of fostering Wisdom is that it can play a key role in enhancing an organisation’s level of competiveness in its domain.

Job Aid

Pdf.png Applying the DIKW hierarchy in an organisational setting

Link icon.png Web Resources
Below is a video explaining the DIKW model:
Link Content
Concepts of Knowledge Management: Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom This video explains the content and application of each level of the DIKW hierarchy in simple terms.


  1. The Wisdom Hierarchy, Editor's Desk: Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom, The Knowledge Pyramid: A Critique of the DIKW Hierarchy, Wisdom- the blurry top of human cognition in the DIKW-model,Basic Knowledge Concepts- Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom, Training, Capacity Building and Media Development, Paradigm, Distinguishing information, data, knowledge and wisdom, Knowledge management – An Overview, The Business of Knowledge Management, Knowledge Management: The Essence of the Competitive Edge; Colugnati, F.A.B, Lopes, L.C.R. and Barretto, S.F.A, Digital Eco-Systems: Third International Conference, OPAALS 2010, Aracujú, Sergipe, Brazil, March 22-23, 2010, Revised Selected Papers