- By Bill English
People often represent the highest level of information in your organization. Tacit knowledge (knowledge that has not been written down) continues to be the most sought-after knowledge in most organizations, because it often represents wisdom and understanding that isn’t easily codified.
When you look at the four levels of information in the following illustration, you can swiftly discern that people need the top two levels of information’understanding and wisdom’to make excellent decisions. But most information management and retrieval systems are not built with this hierarchy in mind. And besides, how would you build a term set to describe tacit knowledge, anyway?
The levels of information can be described as follows:
- Level 1 – Data This is just the raw data, such as numbers (1, 2, 3) or symbols (a, b, c, or “this”, “car”). I’ll create a running example here’we’ll use “20” as our data.
- Level 2 – Information This is where the Data is given some context. For example, the “20” is useless until it has context, such as “20 dollars”, where “20” is data, “20 dollars” is information.
- Level 3 – Knowledge This is where information is related to another piece of information’for example, if “20 dollars” is related to the 10 dollar price of two cappuccinos. At this point, you know you have enough to purchase the two cappuccinos, but perhaps not enough to purchase two concert tickets that might cost 200 dollars.
- Level 4 – Understanding This is where Knowledge is put into use or is made actionable. For example, you might decide that asking that special person out for two cappuccinos is a great idea, so you understand that to spend time with that special person, you’ll need to spend some of that 20 dollars.
- Level 5 – Wisdom This is where Understanding is evaluated and filtered through our intuition, training, and experience. For example, you might decide that it’s a wise choice to ask that special person out for two cappuccinos, but after spending time with him or her, you realize that it was not as wise a choice as you initially thought.
Understanding and wisdom come with experience and time. Until you’ve been there, done that, you don’t really know what to do in a given situation. But if you’ve been through similar experiences several times, when the next similar scenario presents itself, you’ll have instinctive wisdom about what to do or not do. Combining experience with intuition and relevant data is the essence of wisdom. Not everyone can do this in your organization, but those who can become leaders and decision makers.
This is why organizing elements that point to experience and expertise are so important to any organization. For example, if my company is building out the fall marketing campaign, would it not be helpful to me to talk with the leaders of past marketing campaigns so that I can know what not to do as well as what to do? If my company employs 10,000 people, finding the right people might be difficult’perhaps they have moved on to different jobs with different titles or perhaps they have left the company altogether.
So organizing people’their experience and expertise’can be a huge benefit to your organization. Consider creating profile fields that allow users to be organized based on the following characteristics:
- Past titles
- Current titles
- Degrees earned
- Industry certificates earned
- Industry licenses and credentials earned
- Awards received
- Projects worked on
- Past reporting relationships
- Current skills
- Internal training completed
- Schools attended
The list could go on and on. My point is that you need to find ways to describe what people know and what they can do in a way that helps others who need that knowledge or those skills find them swiftly and easily.