Sometimes people have knowledge about a problem or opportunity, but they still don't act on it. Why is this so? When it comes to enterprise collaboration, knowing-doing gaps are especially common. The business improvement potential of enterprise collaboration is huge, but most organizations need help to close the knowing-doing gaps that prevent them from realizing this potential.
The book “The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action,” by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton thoroughly analyzes this phenomenon and shows the main reasons behind why it happens.
What is Said vs. What is Done
When you ask people about the importance of collaboration -- including the ability to collaborate seamlessly across all barriers within an enterprise -- most people would agree that it is key to success. They would also agree that it increases in importance as the business environment becomes more dynamic, unpredictable and competitive.
It is becoming increasingly common for top level executives to stress the importance of collaboration. According to the IBM CEO Study from 2012,
"Collaboration is the number one trait CEOs are seeking in their employees, with 75 percent of CEOs calling it critical … The emphasis on openness and collaboration is even higher among outperforming organizations.”
Despite findings like this, enterprise collaboration is often low on the CEO’s agenda, if on there at all. Something more urgent and business critical always seems to demand the executive's attention and the organization’s resources. The gap between what executives say and actually do couldn’t be bigger. To see the gap one just needs to take look at what they spend on enterprise collaboration related efforts as compared to what they spend on, say, compensation for top level executives.
In large part this knowing-doing gap can be blamed on two things: the short-term thinking that comes with maximizing shareholder value -- once called “the dumbest idea in the world” by Jack Welch, chairman and CEO of General Electric -- and faulty performance metrics. When trying to maximize shareholder value, executives are often forced to go against their better judgement, since investing in something that might take years to bear fruit might not look good in the eyes of impatient shareholders. When performance metrics don’t include collaboration metrics, there are no strong incentives to tear down organizational silos, eliminate destructive internal competition or strengthen enterprise collaboration capabilities.
Steps to Close the Knowing-Doing Gap
To address this knowing-doing gap and create the necessary conditions for improving enterprise collaboration, an organization needs to do the following five things: