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Know Can Do - Book Review

1 August 2015
Dr. Moria Levy
book cover

"Know Can Do: Putting Your Know-How into Action" is a book authored in 2007 by Ken Blanchard, Paul Meyer, and Dick Rue. The book's narrative style follows Blanchard's journey in search of answers to a question that troubles many of us: how to transform our knowledge into actionable results, guided by Meyer.


The book covers the following topics:

  1. Bridging the gap between knowledge and action

  2. The process of relearning

  3. The importance of focus

  4. The power of positive thinking

  5. A comprehensive Follow-up Program


Notably, the book is concise and highly accessible, making it an easy read. I undoubtedly gained valuable insights from it.


Bridging the gap between knowledge and action

The gap between knowledge and action is a well-documented phenomenon. Only some things we understand to be accurate translate into practical implementation. This disconnect exists on a personal level, where we might acknowledge the importance of exercise and moderation in our diet, and on a professional level, especially when dealing with tasks like risk management in projects or applying newly acquired knowledge in the workplace.


But why does this occur? If we have confidence in the accuracy of the information we read or learn, why do we frequently need to improve in applying it in real-life situations? Even after attending workshops or listening to lectures, why do we revert to our daily routines and make minimal, if any, changes based on what we've learned?


Let's approach this from a different perspective. We're not alone in this struggle; it's a widespread challenge. The gap between our knowledge and actions is substantial, and the primary reasons for this disconnection are more than just due to organizational or external constraints. They primarily originate from within us. We contend with information overload, which strains our ability to retain knowledge; we find it difficult to truly internalize new insights, and altering our established life and work habits poses an additional obstacle, even after we've managed to remember and internalize the knowledge.


The solutions outlined below aim to address these challenges associated with bridging the gap between what we know and how we put it into practice. These proposed tools provide practical ways to narrow this gap:


The process of relearning

The first recommended tool involves revisiting the same body of knowledge, and you might wonder how many repetitions are ideal. As a general guideline, six repetitions are recommended, and there's no need for excessive concern. Here's the rationale:

  1. First time: Initially, people often recoil from a new idea that contradicts their preexisting beliefs.

  2. Second time: During the second encounter, individuals frequently resist a new idea due to the inherent difficulty in accepting it.

  3. Third time: By the third encounter, people may partially accept the new idea but still disapprove of its implementation.

  4. Fourth time: After the fourth encounter, people fully embrace the new idea because it aligns with their sentiments.

  5. Fifth time: On the fifth exposure, individuals internalize the idea as they realize it.

  6. Sixth time: By the sixth encounter, the idea is fully internalized, and they take ownership of it, even sharing it with others.


So, how can relearning be effectively accomplished?

  • Utilize various techniques to convey the same message.

  • Incorporate and build upon new knowledge rather than replacing existing knowledge acquired in prior training.

  • Encourage learners to record their thoughts and revisit their notes a day later.

  • After a week of initial study, encourage learners to create a summary of what they've learned.

  • Teaching others what has been learned can solidify one's understanding (a concept explored in Sinek's book "Leaders Eat Last").


Additionally, consider integrating Spaced Repetition into the learning process. Allow intervals for internalization between repetitions to enhance effectiveness.


The importance of focus

Focus entails selecting specific, pertinent knowledge and immersing oneself in it.


But why is such a focus of paramount importance? It becomes a necessity due to the overwhelming volume of information we encounter. This challenge has persisted but is even more pronounced in our current era, where we are inundated with documents and content within organizational settings and cyberspace.


Furthermore, focus assumes heightened significance, particularly in the context of the initial recommendation to commit knowledge to memory and relearn it. The effective execution of this memorization strategy depends on one's capacity to concentrate and sustain focus.


The power of positive thinking

When faced with negative feedback, our typical response must be revised. While constructive criticism holds value, our educators, parents, and mentors frequently emphasize areas for improvement rather than acknowledging our strengths. It's as if they're saying, "What you're doing is fine, but..."


How do we effectively handle less-than-positive criticism? Unfortunately, our reactions aren't always the most constructive:

  • At times, we take offense.

  • Occasionally, our receptivity to feedback diminishes, as if we've closed off our listening channels.

  • And sometimes, under the influence of criticism, we begin to lower our self-expectations, doubting our abilities.


Even when constructive criticism is offered, people tend to be apprehensive and often filter out the positive aspects, mainly due to their prior experiences with criticism, as noted by the authors.


Each time we encounter a learning opportunity, our mindset, influenced by our overall mood and self-belief, plays a pivotal role. Much like Obama's "Yes We Can" mantra, adopting a positive outlook regarding our capabilities significantly enhances our ability to learn and internalize. This positive mindset entails the following:

  • Approaching learning with an open mind, free from preconceived notions.

  • Maintaining a positive attitude toward acquiring new knowledge.

  • Cultivating positive expectations.

  • Approaching learning with a desire to hear what's being said and to spark our imagination.

  • Nurturing an attitude of "How can I apply this knowledge I've gained?"


Some individuals often dwell on obstacles and potential failures. Changing from "why it won't work" to "how can we make it work" can transform our perspective. Additionally, it's valuable to decide that if something negative is mentioned, it will only be expressed after highlighting all the positives. This approach directs our attention toward addressing the most significant challenges without compromising our overall positive outlook.


Moreover, contemplating our desire to absorb knowledge during learning increases the likelihood of retention. Acknowledging that we want to learn for the benefit of a specific project or activity enhances the likelihood of acquiring knowledge for that purpose.


A comprehensive Follow-up Program

It's unsurprising that even when we successfully hear, learn, and internalize new knowledge, altering existing habits remains a significant challenge.

Hence, the necessity for a follow-up plan becomes apparent, one that should be collaboratively developed with the learner and encompass the following elements:


  • Knowledge transfer

  • Illustration

  • Opportunities for practical experimentation

  • Oversight of implementation

  • Provision of positive feedback on progress and guidance for the next steps


To ensure the success of the follow-up program, it requires an iterative and well-managed process.


Recommendations:

  • Avoid undue delays between the conclusion of learning and the initiation of practical application and follow-up.

  • Carefully structure the follow-up program and empower learners to take ownership of this process.

  • Celebrate partial successes rather than waiting for complete success.

  • Ensure that each learner has the support of a manager, facilitator, or coach (which can also be provided remotely via phone).

  • Approach this support with abundant care and encouragement.


Another point worth emphasizing, as mentioned earlier, is the importance of learners teaching others. No substitute for deep personal internalization occurs through the act of teaching.


In conclusion, I wish good fortune to all of us on this essential journey, particularly those engaged in knowledge management.



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