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The Data Pyramid and the Cultivation of Wisdom

Updated: Oct 10, 2023


Picture of the Data Pyramid in colorful blocks.


“Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers.”

-Calvin Coolidge


From the beginning, humans have been on a quest: a quest for truth, for purpose, and for wisdom. Whereas knowledge is having an understanding of facts and truths, wisdom is the ability to use knowledge, past experiences, and higher reason to make decisions. Unlike knowledge that constantly changes, wisdom is timeless – once gained, it’s yours forever. Wisdom is an intangible trait people often seek in leaders – whether they realize it or not – and a trait that, many would argue, is illusive in many leaders.


The question for today’s leaders is then: How can I cultivate wisdom? The DIKW Pyramid (aka Data Pyramid) offers us some insights.


What is the Data Pyramid?


The DIKW Pyramid (Data Pyramid) is a model that outlines how basic data is converted to information, then to knowledge, and ultimately to the cultivation of wisdom. Although few people know much about its origin, this model is of renowned importance and is crucial to understanding the differences between data, information, and knowledge. What’s more, the Data Pyramid also helps us visualize the path to Wisdom.


Data


Data refers to a body of facts or observations that are usually of little value without organization or context. Though important or correct, Data usually cannot stand on its own. It must be analyzed, applied, and combined with other Data to prove itself useful.


Though data is composed of statistics, scientific or technological advances, and even universal truths, they are almost always subject to change. It’s crucial to our quest for wisdom, then, that we set aside our ideas or perceptions and strive constantly to collect and analyze the available data. One of the most impactful mistakes a leader can make today is failing to make an effort to stay up on relevant advances and discoveries.


Information


Information is the result of Data analysis. In short, it’s the sum total of Data that’s been analyzed and contextually applied. Essentially, Data is given its meaning through analysis and evaluation.


Though information is critical to productivity, information itself is not wisdom. To move us closer to wisdom, information must be transformed into knowledge.


Knowledge


Knowledge is information, common sense, and personal insights applied to create within ourselves a proficiency within a discipline or across subjects. While information deepens our intelligence and awareness of a specific topic, Knowledge offers us a greater competency across a range of subjects. More importantly, Knowledge helps us take action.


Wisdom


Emerging from insights yielded by Knowledge is Wisdom, the pinnacle of the Data Pyramid. These insights combine with our experience, talent, and higher reasoning to become an essential virtue. Where Data and Information tend to focus on specific subjects and fields, Wisdom fuels a diversity of thought. In short, Wisdom is the quality or state of “knowing the right thing to do.”


Understanding is the thing that separates Knowledge from Wisdom. Understanding is knowing how or why knowledge applies to a given situation, for instance. Or, how to apply personal experiences and knowledge to affect a circumstance.


Why do we need Wisdom?


To be better prepared for individual or organizational success – to be better leaders and better humans. Though Data, Information, and Knowledge have their place they are mere stepping stones to that essential leadership trait – Wisdom.


How can we gain wisdom? By nurturing the desire to learn and the humility to recognize knowledge as a path to something greater.


© 2023 The Growth Group, LLC - All rights reserved.

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