Knowing "what" to do is not enough: Turning knowledge into action
Jeffrey Pfeffer, Robert I Sutton.
California Management Review.
Fall 1999. Vol. 42, Iss. 1; pg. 83, 26 pgs
Why do so much education and training, management consulting, and business research and so many books and articles produce so little change in what managers and organizations actually do? In 1996, more than 1,700 business books were published in the United States,1 and more are published each year. Many of these books are filled with the same analyses and prescriptions, albeit using different language and graphics, as could be found in similar books published the year before. in fact, many of the ideas proclaimed as new each year can be found in similar books printed decades earlier.2 Yet these books find a ready market because the ideas, although often widely known and proven to be useful and valid, remain unimplemented. So, authors try, in part through repackaging and updating, to somehow get managers to not only know but to do something with what they know. And managers continue to buy the books filled with ideas they already know because they intuitively understand that knowing isn't enough. They hope that by somehow buying and reading one more book they will finally be able to translate this performance knowledge into organizational action.
Each year the hundreds of business schools in the United States graduate more than 80,000 MBAs and conduct numerous research studies on business topics.
Numerous researchers have found that "little of what is taught in college or even business schools really prepares would-be managers for the realities of managing." One study reported that 73 percent of the surveyed MBA program graduates said -that their MBA skills were used 'only marginally or not at all' in their first managerial assignments.
One might think that with the current interest in 'knowledge management" and intellectual capital, there wouldn't be a knowing-doing problem.
Knowledge management systems seem to work best when the people who generate the knowledge are also those who store it, explain it to others, and coach them as they try to implement the knowledge.
Eight Guidelines for Action
1 - Why before How: Philosophy Is Important.
2. Knowing Comes from Doing and Teaching Others How
3. Action Counts More Than Elegant Plans and Concepts.
4. There Is No Doing without Mistakes. What Is the Company's Response?
5. Fear Fosters Knowing-Doing Gaps, So Drive Out Fear.
6. Beware of False Analogies: Fight the Competition, Not Each Other.
7. Measure What Matters and What Can Help Turn Knowledge into Action.
8. What Leaders Do, How They Spend Their Time and How They Allocate Resources, Matters.