“Act or accept.”

“Knowing about the ‘knowing-doing gap’ is different from doing something about it.”
—Jeffery Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton, authors

How do we turn knowledge into measurable action? How do we address the knowing-doing gap within education. As an educator, I try to live by the words, “When you know better, you are obligated to do better.” While I may remain a work in progress, I know the critical piece is moving from thinking to doing; with students in the mix, this is essential.

This topic is significant because of its connection to instructional leaders creating a sustainable culture for action in schools and school systems while building capacity and fostering a growth mindset. And it is an important reminder that to truly transform our educational system will require measurable and purposeful actions, driven by research, data, and evidence on a daily basis. Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton, the authors of The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action, share eight guidelines for action that can assist instructional leaders with examining their current practices and making changes to those practices.

  1. Talk about the “why” before the “how.” Simon Sinek states, “If we know the Why, we will figure out the What and How.” Effective leaders can bridge the gap by articulating the vision and sharing the reasons and philosophy behind it.
  2. Learn by doing and also by teaching and coaching others. Sustainable change comes with systems and people that build capacity and encourage reflection and growth. As leaders, how do we create a coaching culture that engages and empowers others?
  3. Actions do speak louder than words. The authors assert that our actions count more than any of the plans we build. One of our core values at Catapult Learning is decisiveness or having a bias for action. Instructional leaders model this daily in their interactions with others.
  4. Learn from mistakes and reframe failure. One of the hallmarks of a learning organization is what they do when things go wrong. Being able to reflect on and reframe our failures as learning opportunities is a hallmark of bridging the knowing-doing gap.
  5. Decrease fear where and when you can. Instructional leaders create a culture where people feel they can take risks and try new ideas. Remember that our brains don’t learn under stress.
  6. Collaborate and cooperate. The authors share that many organizations mistakenly foster a culture of competition when they are actually trying to foster a culture of motivation.
  7. Measure outcomes and processes and act on that knowledge. How often are we beginning with the end in mind? Have we determined how our we will assess our progress and measure success before we start?
  8. Leaders allocate their time and resources wisely while creating systems that narrow the gap between knowing and doing. The ability to effectively leverage resources including time, people, technology, and resources is key to building sustainable systems that foster action.

This topic matters because problem solving requires action. Pfeffer and Sutton assert “that one of the most important insights from our research is that knowledge that is actually implemented is much more likely to be acquired from learning by doing than from learning by reading, listening, or even thinking” (p. 6). So, let’s consider the implications of that statement. As instructional leaders, how does this impact how we implement professional development? What impact does this have on the decision to implement job-embedded coaching? As we finish up the school year, how will we enact effective practices in our schools? How can we use what we have learned to date to impact student outcomes?