The Knowing-Doing Gap

Jan 10, 2021

I was talking with a client about time and productivity this morning. She made the comment that she knows what to do, but it doesn’t mean she does it. It’s the classic ‘knowing-doing gap’ that Jeffrey Pfeffer & Robert Schwartz consider in their book of the same name exploring the gap between knowing what to do and actually implementing that knowledge in an organisational context. This same gap can be seen with individuals. Most of us will be able to find at least one area in our life where it is, or has been, present. Just because we know how to lose weight, be more productive with our time or how to save money, it doesn’t mean that we necessarily transfer that knowledge into consistent action.

Let’s take a moment to explore why this might be.

Random question… Do you know how much of an iceberg is visible above the waterline? Only about 10%.

Let’s imagine a person as an iceberg for a minute. What sits above the waterline and is observable are our actions, patterns of behaviour and our outcomes. What sits below the waterline? These are all the things that we can’t see, like our thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, past experiences etc. It’s these things that drive our behaviour, and sometimes there’s a mismatch between desirable behaviour and the deeper more subconscious conditions that drive our actual behaviour. If our behaviour change efforts remain at the ‘above-the-waterline’ transactional level, any impact is likely to be short-lived at best. Only by focusing on exploring and adjusting the ‘below-the-waterline’ drivers of behaviour can we hope for significant and sustainable results. That’s not saying it’s easy, but with exploration, support and reinforcement of small steps, we can close the knowing-doing gap.

What’s an area where you can see you’ve got the knowing-doing gap happening? And, how might you shift your thinking to support behaviour change? Be brave and comment below! Let me start you off. I’ve currently got a knowing-doing gap that I’m working with my own coach to close around sharing content via video. I know that it’s a really effective and enjoyable method for my clients to learn new content vs just written content. I also know that the only way to get better at it is by doing it. Do you think I want to??? Stick with me, you’ll see how I’m progressing at closing this gap!

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