What is the difference between information and knowledge?
It sounds like such a simple question, of course they are different things, and yet we behave as though they are the same thing.
Schools expect parents to know what is happening and to understand decision-making, because a letter was sent out.
Companies expect people to know about their product, because a campaign was launched.
The Government expects us to know that smoking is bad for us, because information leaflets were created, and so the expectation is that we will change our behaviour accordingly.
We believe that everyone knows what we know. We can loudly (and often) exclaim, ‘but everyone knows that…..’
So what is the difference between information and knowledge?
For me this can be summed up in one word: understanding. Without understanding, the information we are bombarded with is just noise. There is nothing to persuade us to change our behaviour, to buy a different product, to write the new date in the diary. We need to first hear and then understand the information we are given.
As organisations, we need to understand this difference. If we think our job is done because we have put information out into the world, without checking engagement or understanding, if we don’t understand out target market, and use the wrong language or wrong medium to reach them, if we don’t understand the context into which we are placing our information, then we simply add to the noise.
Our commitment and focus need to be on the understanding, on creating knowledge. If we focus only on the information, our communication is likely to fail.