Is Information Overload Getting You Down


Information overload is a common complaint these days. Too much data, too many reports.

In reading some insights from Dee Hock (founder of Visa), he showed a model that has helped liberate me from this deluge. I love it, and wanted to see if it might help anyone else… generally called the DIKW hierarchy, it gives a framework that helps judge whether you have enough understanding.

I’ll start from the most basic stage, and work up in complexity:

  • Noise: No discernible pattern.
  • Data: Noise becomes data when it has a cognitive pattern.
  • Information: Data becomes information when it’s assembled into a coherent whole, which can be related to other information.
  • Knowledge: Information becomes knowledge when it’s integrated with other information in a form useful for making decisions and determining actions.
  • Understanding: Knowledge becomes understanding when it’s related to other knowledge in a manner useful for anticipating, judging, and acting.
  • Wisdom: Understanding becomes wisdom when it’s informed by purpose, ethics, principles, memory, and projection.

These ideas have been bouncing around for generations because they’re good. Even Frank Zappa thought so:

Information is not knowledge,
Knowledge is not wisdom,
Wisdom is not truth,
Truth is not beauty,
Beauty is not love,
Love is not music,
and Music is THE BEST.

– Frank Zappa, “Packard Goose”

As with all my favorite learnings, you can find this on our Theory Of Everything document (which has just had an update).

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  3. Ando

    Thanks Nina, I find it a really useful tool to guide teams as well.

    Each time we get new information, we try to work it higher in the pyramid. The more we discuss or look for insights with the info, the more it can really guide our decision making.

    Hope you get to apply it soon!

  4. Wasn’t aware of this hierarchy before Andrew. Thanks for posting, it’s fascinating!

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