D1- Knowledge versus Information

This is what I use to show the distinction between information and knowledge. It is based on the definition of “knowledge” among some leading KM practitioners (see my earlier post on “A Proposed KM Framework”)


information vs knowledge


  • Read the diagram as a Venn diagram e.g. “actionable information” is a subset of “explicit knowledge” (thanks to Diego Maranan).
  • Not all tacit knowledge can be made explicit (“We know more than we can tell or write”) and so the upward arrow is often an incomplete process.
  • I prefer the above operational definitions of “tacit knowledge” and “explicit knowledge.” I shy away from ontological and epistemological definitions because they tend to be too impractical and often deteriorate into useless debates.

Adapted from: Overview chapter I wrote in the book “Knowledge Management in Asia: Experiences and Lessons”. Tokyo: Asian Productivity Organization, 2008. The e-book is freely downloadable.

You can use the diagram for non-commercial purposes but please give CCLFI acknowledgement each time you show or use it. CCLFI is the KM, OL (=organizational learning) and KBD (=knowledge-based development) advocacy, training and consulting organization I belong to.


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6 Responses to “D1- Knowledge versus Information”

  1. Diego Maranan Says:

    good idea to create these individual, discrete “learning objects”.

    nice diagram; i’m not entirely clear why “actionable information” is labeled the way it is. is it a subset of explicit knowledge? or are they synonymous? or is actionable information synonymous with implicit AND explicit knowledge?

  2. apintalisayon Says:

    Read it as a Venn diagram: “actionable information” is a subset of “explicit knowledge”.

    Thanks Diego.

  3. joitske Says:

    Hi Apin, I really like the diagrams, especially tacit to explicit and explicti to tacit- a distinction I use for myself at times too. Is the publication where they originate available online?

  4. apintalisayon Says:

    Hi Joitske, I will include these diagrams in the next KM book I am now writing. 🙂

  5. John James O'Brien Says:

    Further to actionable infomraiton as a subset of explicit knowledge, I come at this slightly differently, thinking that information becomes actionable with a merging of explicit and tacit knowledge…which might be conveyed with a two-way arrow for “practice”. A thought…

  6. apintalisayon Says:

    A piece of information may not be actionable to a neophyte, but to an expert the same piece of information is actionable. Is this what you mean, John?

    If so, I agree with you. The more tacit knowledge (e.g. experience) we have, the better we can make sense of “ordinary” information.

    Hmmm… let me figure out how we incorporate this in the diagram, of course with due acknowledgement to you John.

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