Knowledge is Power! Or is it?


We hear all the time that knowledge is power. In our industry we use this mantra as a justification for all sorts of investment, particularly investments in business intelligence. But is knowledge really power? Let’s consider this. In our house we have one rule (thanks to my sister, from whom we lifted this rule). That rule is “everyone deserves love and respect no matter how I feel now”. I love this rule because if you use this as your filter for everything that you do it is very difficult to go wrong.Much of my and my wife’s teachings to the children in our house (both our own and others that join us from time to time) is based on reinforcing this one rule and what it means. The result is everyone in our house knows this rule, no matter how long they have been with us.Translating this knowledge into action however is problematic.

I have come to the conclusion that although we know what love and respect are intellectually, we are not skilled at the behaviours that demonstrate love and respect. Aligned with this is that historically we, like most parents, are drawn to deal with “bad” behaviour rather than reinforcing the behaviour we want.Recently we have changed our approach by adding two tools to our parenting tool kit. Firstly, we have been very explicit about what behaviours demonstrate love and respect (for example, “when I am at school I will do what the teacher asks first time, without complaining”) and secondly when we get “bad” behaviour (they are kids after all) we identify it, identify what behaviour would show love and respect and practice the behaviour we want.

The results have been fantastic and we are progressively getting more of the behaviour we want and consequently less of the behaviour we do not want. We are beginning to get real power as we close the gap between knowledge and action by focusing on what we want and practicing those behaviours. This knowledge action gap occurs everywhere. It impacts all areas of our lives not just personal and family issues. For example, I recently have become involved with theĀ ‘Getting IT Right’ group.The objective of the group is to raise the bar on IT delivery in New Zealand. As the group began to discuss the issues and potential solutions to “getting IT right” it became apparent to me that the issue we face is that we do not consistently do what we know we should do.

As an industry we have plenty of tools and knowledge freely available, but we lack consistent focused action. For example, we all know about the ITIL framework but do we use its guidance consistently? What about project management methods? What about IT governance? I could go on and on. The knowledge is there but we do not use it or at least we do not use it effectively, often focusing on the form of the tools and methods, rather than the intent and behaviour that is required to be successful. Also we tend to focus our management efforts on fixing wrong behaviour rather than supporting and practicing the behaviour we want.

My conclusion from this is that if we want to improve the results we are getting for our team or as an industry we would be well served to be:

1) Be explicit about what behaviours we want.

2) Practice these behaviours so we are good at them and they come more naturally.

3) Reward and encourage these behaviours when we see them. Knowledge is not power, knowledge is potential power. Action, preferably well researched, explicit, and focused action, is power.I know this all sounds like common sense but as the old saying goes, common sense is not common practice and it’s not about knowing what to do, it’s about doing what you know!


First published on cio.co.nz



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