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Change Whisperer. The Knowing-Doing Gap

Why don’t we do the things we know we should do?

I read an engaging post on Gail Severini’s Change Whisperer blog called, “Leading Strategy, the Three Key Ingredients to Rejuvenation”. She talked about the importance of going slow to go fast and how rejuvenation puts you in the best frame of mind to lead complex strategy. 

Gail outlined a three-step process for rejuvenation: rest, reflect and explore. Her personal example illustrated how it worked and I found myself rereading the steps and nodding in agreement. 

At the time, I failed to notice that it was midnight on Saturday night after I completed a work task. Something was wrong with this picture. My actions were not aligned with my thinking; I hadn’t taken a break in two months and I definitely was not rejuvenated.

 I know that taking breaks and making time for reflection improves my effectiveness and quality of work. So, why am I not doing these things? Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton wrote a book in the late 90s called “The Knowing-Doing Gap:  How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge Into Action”. It explores why companies don’t act on what they know. The same principle applies to individuals. I have not been doing what I know is in my best interest.

My default behaviour is to keep working until tasks are completed, even when my resources are low. Why do I do it? Like most people going through change, old habits are familiar and comfortable. A past manager had a phrase that described my working style: “Line them up and knock them down.” As long as there is something to line up I will keep knocking them down, even when my productivity is low. 

It’s time to make a change. Here is my plan for breaking this unproductive habit:

  • Make a list each night of non-work activities I will complete on breaks during the following day (I am a list person)
  • Visually display this list beside my priority activities list (visual reminders are powerful)
  • Review my progress nightly (and make notes as I do after my runs)
  • Ask a friend to check in on my progress (I know I will never have “nothing to report”)
  • Reward the desired behaviour (schedule guilt-free play time to spend with family and friends)

My actions must become aligned with my beliefs or I will not maximize my potential. This is my main benefit. Also, now have my own personal example of “rest, reflect and explore”.


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