Knowing-doing gap

65 mins of work | Released on 10/05/2019






Pen, paper, computer






Far too often, students of leadership are not able to turn theory about successful leadership into practice. This problem is called the knowing-doing gap. This is one of the biggest weaknesses of MBA's worldwide, as people learn ideal ways to lead, but rather seldom manage to implement or apply what they learn. This is quite normal not only in leadership as a field and leadership-education but especially here we are prone to seek and attach to ideal ways of doing things. But if the gap between the ideal way and the practice grows too large, it can result in apathy and a distorted view of reality. Imagine person A, knowing and believing deeply what she/he must do to become a good leader, but never being able to live up to this ideal way. To understand this better, we can think of an analog: the difference between knowing recipes and making a meal. Knowing a lot of recipes can help but is not enough for making a good meal. If we share a lot of knowledge at gatherings but do not turn it into practice, it is similar to becoming really good at sharing recipes with each other. But in order to become a masterchef, something more is needed. To push the analog further - what is needed to be able to cook a good meal even in imperfect situations, if we don't have the necessary ingredients, and find ourselves without electricity? what else is needed besides recipes? Intention:

The intention of this task is to reflect on our own experiences to draw out insights that help to close the gap between knowledge and doing. In the first part of the task we put our attention to this gap, to become aware of what it means, and to identify what actually happens on the road to action. These insights we gather and resulting strategies are useful both for us as individuals, as well as to be able to realistically support the participants, and value those who are able to put things into practice/action.



(10min) Reflect on the following question:

What is something that you know, and that you are not able to put into action? List as many examples as you can. (5min) Share examples in group pop-corn style, bringing as many different examples as you can.


(20min) Now, opposite example. Reflect in detail on the following example:

Think of something important that you changed in your life or something important you changed your mind about. (can be related to FL or not)

Guiding questions:

How did it happen? Over what time did it happen?

What were the steps?

What made it possible? Easier?

What stopped the process? Made it slower?

What feelings and thoughts accompanied this process?

Have you made this change completely? Can you think of situations where the change is not real (yet)?


(30min) Discuss in the group: What can we do to support participants in bridging the gap between theory and action? Guiding questions: -In which parts of the program can we support participants to turn knowledge into action? -How can we phrase questions to encourage this? -What motivates to act on commitments? -What can make it difficult for participants to do this? How can we ease this difficulty? -What beliefs, mindsets, and habits might keep us from closing this gap? -In which parts of the program can we act as role models for this? Either reflect upon the questions alone and then share or discuss this openly in the group. Make sure to note down any relevant ideas, guidelines, etc.


Last updated