The Difference Between Knowledge and Wisdom

November 13th, 2012 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Knowledge

Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.” – Sandra Carey

According to Russell Ackoff, knowledge is defined as the acquisition of data and information that provides the ability to answer (How?) questions, while wisdom is defined as the practical application and use of the knowledge to create value.

Wisdom is gained through learning and practical experience, not just memorisation, however, to practically apply knowledge learnt, a deep understanding of the knowledge is required. “Understanding” is what allows knowledge to be converted into wisdom through cognitive, experiential and analytical processes. Wisdom gives people the ability to make the right judgements and correct decisions, but can also synthesize new knowledge.

For example, memorising data and information allows you to acquire knowledge which can be used to answer questions (such as in an exam), however, when posed with a problem to solve, then a deep understanding of the knowledge is required to successfully solve the problem. One of the challenges in our educational system is that deep understanding of knowledge through cognitive and analytical processes is not taught in-depth. Curricula require the inclusion of education programs on how to analyse knowledge and synthesise new knowledge. To achieve a deep understanding of knowledge, additional “thinking about thinking” or cognitive techniques are required to be added to the curriculum. For example, in 1998 the University of the Sunshine Coast introduced a core compulsory first year interdisciplinary course called “Thought and Communication” intended to encourage students to think deeply, in addition to learn the importance of communication.

Beyond wisdom is enlightenment. Enlightenment can be defined as a higher form of understanding and wisdom that enables clarity of perception and awareness. It is a state of being that provides insight through reasoning and self-awareness.

The following table provides a summary of the Knowledge Hierarchy:

I have also represented the Knowledge Hierarchy in a pyramid format below:

Dr John Kapeleris

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