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Information vs. Knowledge


Aren’t They The Same Thing?

I tell ya.  I learn something new every day.  I was reading a book the other day where the author started talking about information and knowledge.  I know what they are.  Aren’t they the same thing… just used a little differently in some sentences?  For example, “I have all the information I need.”  Or, “She has all the knowledge.”  They always seemed to be pretty much the same thing, but apparently they’re not.  The author said that information is the facts and details about something, whereas knowledge is sort of how you use your own experience to enhance or supplement the information you have.

Google to the rescue!!!

I don’t know what to believe, so I go to the trusted source…Google.  A quick search defines information as:

facts provided or learned about something or someone.

A quick search to define knowledge provided this definition:

facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.

Okay, so it seems the author knew what he was talking about.  Experience seems to be a key factor here.  But are they really that different?

Are they really that different?

Let’s look at an example to see the difference.  If you were to go to an auto shop and talk to a mechanic, you could ask him what are the steps to replacing a carburetor.  He’s changed hundreds of them, so he quickly starts giving you the steps.  You write them all down.  What do you have?  Information or knowledge?  You have information, the mechanic has knowledge.  Still don’t see the difference?

How long would it take you to change a carburetor using these steps?  You probably don’t know.  Neither do I.  But I can pretty much guarantee you that the mechanic can do it faster.  Because you have information, the mechanic has knowledge.  The mechanic has the knowledge gained through years of experience replacing carburetors.  He has iterated over the steps hundreds of times.  It’s true you have the steps to replace the carburetor (information), but the mechanic has the years of experience (knowledge).

Still not convinced of the difference?  Go to the hospital and ask a doctor the steps to performing open heart surgery.  LOL…see what I mean?

How to get knowledge…

In order to gain knowledge, you have to take what you know and get some experience.  You need to iterate over the information multiple times so you have a real world feel for what the information is.  I remember when I graduated college with my first undergraduate degree in Rehabilitation Services.  I got a job working in substance abuse counseling.  I was working with some people who ran group sessions, but never went to college.  In my head, I questioned how they could do that?

I learned quickly that they had knowledge.  Not only did they have the information about substance abuse but most even had experience with it.  And that experience gave them the knowledge they needed to make a difference in someone else’s life.

The Takeaway

I never really paid attention to the difference between information and knowledge.  Information is the facts and data learned about something.  Knowledge is facts and information learned through experience.  In short, knowledge is information plus experience.  It takes real world experience using the information you have to learn the “tricks of the trade,” sorta speak.  You need to take the information you know, get out in the world, and use it.  Use it over and over again.  This is how you connect the dots between how things work.  When you can connect these dots, you’ve gained knowledge.

It’s said you can get lots of knowledge from a book.  I don’t believe that to be true now.  I believe you can get lots of information from a book, but if you want to turn that into knowledge, then you have to get some experience using that information.  This is why it’s always been said that if you want to get the most out of a book, you have to take what’s in a book and use it.  That’s how you turn information into knowledge.

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