Information Is Subjective

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Categories: Knowledge


by Lynda Bourne

Knowledge is organic, adaptive and created—it exists in the minds of people. A person’s store of knowledge is built from their life experiences, their observations, and their formal and informal learning. Consequently, what one person knows will be different to what everyone else knows. Some of each person’s knowledge is explicit, meaning they can explain the rules that apply to it. But much is implicit: intuition, gut feelings and other ill-defined but invaluable insights grounded in the person’s experience.

Information is recorded, held in systems and made accessible to people. Good information management systems contain verified information in a useful format. This information is based on data. Because it is written, it is consistent—but it may not be correct. How the data is interpreted to create the information depends on people’s knowledge and perceptions.

Data Is the Starting Point

Data is a set of observations or measurements. If nothing changes in the world, another person can perform the same measurement or observation at another time and gather the same set of data. Data may not be accurate or reliable but it is based on observed facts about something. The potential for error rests in the way the observations or measurements were made.

The Interpretation of Information

Information is organized data. It provides the answer to a question of some kind or resolves an uncertainty.

However, transforming data into information is not automatic; it requires the input of knowledge. Someone has to look at the data and observe patterns that indicate something of significance or make decisions on what is important in a particular context. Information is refined data in a context that is designed to communicate a message to the receiver of the information.

The problem is different people with different knowledge frameworks will interpret the same set of data in different ways. You only need to listen to politicians arguing about the state of the economy to see how different the interpretation of the same set of data can become. The old adage applies, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”

When I reduce my knowledge to a codified or written format it becomes available to others as information. But I have no way of knowing how you or anyone else will use or change the information I have created.

Information Management Systems

Changing data into information is the first application of knowledge in an information management system. And the journey from data to useful information may need several passes through the information management system. PMI’s A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) identifies:

  • Work performance data (gathered by someone during the course of doing project work)
  • Work performance information (the data processes by discipline experts into basic information)
  • Work performance reports (the basic information, selected, compiled and placed in context to be used by stakeholders).

At each step in this flow, a person applies their tacit and explicit knowledge to the information they have received. They then codify their new knowledge to create another piece of information ready for use by others. The problem with this process in isolation is it is asynchronous and based on individual transactions. This is suboptimal and potentially dangerous. 

However, the model of the information management system above is very common and spans global systems, such as Wikipedia down to simple knowledge repositories in project web portals. What’s missing in this type of system is the knowledge management element, which we will look at next time.

An information system on its own will at best simply make useful information available to people. There is no control over how, or if, the information is accessed or used appropriately. In a full knowledge management system, information is the bridge between data and knowledge:

  • The raw data represents values attributed to parameters of something.
  • Knowledge signifies understanding of real things or abstract concepts.

More on this next time.

Posted by Lynda Bourne on: June 30, 2018 06:33 PM | Permalink

Comments (20)

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Good topic, thanks Lynda.

Thanks. This is very useful to understand the elements of knowledge management system.

What is it that is needed and why, how to we get there, and how is it exposed for consumption?

Thanks, Lynda. Looking forward to part two

Good explanation. Learned more from you, thanks, Lynda

Good post! Thank you Lynda

Information management system is a very important tool during project life cycle and especially in closing the project for archive all project issues and files and lessened learned for project improvements in the future.

Tamer

Projects live on information and knowledge Tamer, but if you look at the information management system from a single project perspective only you probably lose 80% of the value - projects finish! Information management, knowledge management, and stakeholder engagement are all best seen as organizational attributes, based on an organizational culture.

Thanks for sharing, very interesting

Thanks for interesting article.

Good article on information management thank you Lynda. Couldn’t help but think of the Twain quote It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." Strong information on top of solid data helps to drive beneath what we think is true to what really is true. As you point out how someone interprets the data is subjective to their agenda and past experience but solid information helps to break down assumptions with hard cold facts.

You are one step ahead of me Sam - my next post will look at developing real knowledge and 'practical wisdom' in organizations. It's a couple of weeks away....

Excellent article Lynda, it is absolutely true

Thanks Linda, we all have biases. Nice post

Thanks Linda for sharing such a worthy Article....

Thank you Linda for sharing with the group.

Explained in a fantastic way. Thanks for sharing.

I've always said that people are important. Seems I'm not wrong...

Great. And waiting this knowledge managed by machine learning

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