Data, Information, Knowledge and Wisdom

Russell Ackoff's five catagories classifying the human mind

Russell Ackoff's system

  1. 1. Data = symbols
  2. 2. Information = data that are processed to be useful; provides answers to "who", "what", "where", "when" questions
  3. 3. Knowledge = application of data and information; answers "how" questions
  4. 4. Understanding = appreciation of "why"
  5. 5. Wisdom = evaluating understanding
  • Example: The Weather


  • represents a fact or statement of event without relation to other things.
    Example: It is raining


  • embodies the understanding of a relationship of some sort, possibly cause and effect
    Example: The temperature dropped 15 degrees and then it started to rain


  • represents a pattern that connects and generally provides a high level of predictability as to what is described or what will happen next
    Example: If the humidity is very high and the temperature drops substantially the atmosphere is often unlikely to be able to hold the moisture and so it rains


  • demonstrates an understanding of fundamental principles embodied within the knowledge that are essentially the basis for the knowledge being what it is.
    Wisdom is essentially systemic.
    Example: It rains because it rains. And this encompasses an understanding of all the interactions that happen between raining, evaporation, air currents, temperature gradients, changes, and raining.