The difference between knowledge and information

Promenade Meeting Room at Sofitel Macau
Promenade Meeting Room at Sofitel Macau

In past times, knowledge was an extremely strong competitive advantage, however, nowadays, this value can be discussed. The reason is complexity.

As the complexity of the human tasks increases, a higher number of people must be involved to develop any task, then, the way that knowledge is shared among people can become more important than the amount of knowledge that people has got.

Old paradigms of knowledge management have become obsolete. An organization must not know the knowledge that its employees own, and establish ways to improve it. This old scheme does not analyze how the knowledge is shared, that is required for every complex task in business.

In an engineering company engineers are deposits of knowledge and managers are processing nodes of business information. The value of organizations in front of single people is related to shared information in a coordinated way, instead of the knowledge itself. On the other hand, some experienced engineers can have accumulated a lot of critical knowledge about the business. That is the reason why managers are usually better paid than engineers and some engineers can be better paid than their managers. Engineering knowledge is replaceable because it is got in a standardized way at the universities but business related information cannot be easily replaced and can produce a problem if that information goes to the competitors.

An important thing that we must understand is that knowledge itself does not provide value to a business. Knowledge provides value if it can be applied to a production process, that is the reason why only inventions with industrial applications can be patented. In innovation activity, this is well known. Innovation professionals distinguish between research, development and innovation. Research activity produces new knowledge, development produces new technology and innovation produces new goods and services at the markets.

Information is defined as the communication or the acquisition of knowledge that let to increase or make more precise the knowledge that we have about a certain matter. This definition is providing two important concepts, information is related to communication or flux of data, and information is related to a certain existing knowledge that is extended.

In a knowledge society, what is really important is how knowledge is shared among its individuals, then, what is defining a knowledge society is the shared knowledge or information instead of the individual knowledge of people.

This has two important consequences: knowledge is depreciated in relation to previous societies as agricultural or industrial ones where individual knowledge was extremely valuated; and if knowledge is undervalued there is a trend in that kind of society to collapse itself, because if knowledge is depreciated, the amount of created knowledge will be lowered along time.

The protection of intellectual property is a way to avoid this collapse. However, legislation of intellectual property is more driven towards the world of arts instead of the world of science. Arts do not provide new knowledge as science does. The protection of artistic work is not a solution to avoid the collapse of a knowledge society due to the undervaluation of the scientific and technological knowledge. Scientific and technological education must be equally protected.

This is a systemic problem. Our system tends to be more driven by information than knowledge. An example can be how professional success is easier got. People that gather information and create a business over market trends have a higher probability to reach success than people who launch a startup as an outsider of the market based on a new technology, although the second option can be more valuable on the long term. Governments should be as worried about the protection of industrial property as the protection of arts related intellectual property that is protected enough.

This is a result of the creation of knowledge society, when knowledge passes from creating value for individuals to create value for society, who controls the information flow controls the society and then a problem arises because any information channel has some kind of noise. In information theory language, when the noise increases it is impossible to recover the signal. This can be translated into complexity language with the follow sentence, when the entropy domains a system the system finally collapses. If governments are very worried to protect artistic intellectual individual property, they should be more worried to protect scientific and technological individual knowledge that is the basement of our current modern societies.

In the knowledge society, noise is introduced by faults of communication between two nodes, in a business can be introduced by faults of information processing by the managing staff. This would be indicating that managing staff must have the required knowledge on the managed subject in a knowledge society that probably was not required before.


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