Acting on Knowledge

Knowledge about best practices across many industries is widely available, yet it is often not implemented. This gap between knowing and doing is explored by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton in “The Knowing-Doing Gap”. While there is no simple answer, several contributors are:

  • Substituting “talk” for action
  • Substituting past practice for thinking
  • Fear in organizations
  • Bad metrics

These contributing factors can be overcome with some common sense:

  • The team understands “why” before figuring out “how”: the philosophy behind missions matters!
  • Realizing that truly knowing something comes from doing
  • Valuing action over planning: nothing exposes false assumptions and lack of knowledge like actually trying something
  • Treat failures as a opportunity to learn
  • Drive out fear from your organization (often the toughest change)
  • Fight your competition, not each other: in-fighting wastes precious attention cycles!
  • Measure what turns knowledge into action: this is the behavior that needs nurturing
  • Leaders must set the example

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Notes on Acting on Knowledge

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