The Research Behind Knowing-Doing Gap

It’s amazing to read about some of the research conducted by the authors of this book. Take this super simple example:

The authors asked restaurant managers about various business practices: team communication, team decision-making, how well information is shared, how well management takes suggestions from employees, etc.

About each subject, the authors asked:

  1. How big of an effect do you think this business practice has on the restaurant’s ability to succeed?
  2. How effectively have you implemented this particular business?

If each manager answered the questions with equal weight — “this is really important and we’ve really implemented it well” — you would have perfect alignment between actions and beliefs; there would be no knowing-doing gap.

But…you guessed it…there was a big fucking gap.

Really important things like communication were known to be important, but the managers of the restaurants admitted that communication was lousy at their restaurants.

The authors say this happened over and over again in all kinds of industries. People seem to know what is important but they can’t seem to execute or implement those solutions. Hence the title “The Knowing-Doing Gap.”

I am amazed by how simple this survey is and how telling it can be. And it’s also surprising when you realize that in a lot of industries, it’s not about finding that magical “perfect” strategy. A lot of success can be found simply executing a good strategy really well. Execution goes a long way.

So, in summary, people seem to generally agree on what’s happening inside of a company (they know what they’re actually doing). People also seem to generally know what to do (they know what they’re doing). But people don’t seem to know how to do what they know they should be doing.

That last paragraph actually makes sense. Read it again. It’s the knowing-doing gap.