How can we gain more life experience from our everyday encounters? How do conversations that explore messy human micro-situations help us become more self-aware?

Mind the Knowing-Doing Gap

Simply knowing what sensible leaders ought to do (via abstract management concepts, “best practices” or sage advice) rarely changes what people actually do in real life.

In other words, learning about “people skills” may make us smarter, but habits change in a different way.

If we want to continuously develop our communication and collaboration habits, for example, we need greater insight into how we handle micro-situations. Then we can regroove our neural pathways by experimenting and putting into practice what we’ve learned from these revelations.


As Jerry Sternin has observed, “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than to think your way into a new way of acting.”

Do we want to take more responsibility for our actions? Do we too often blame others when things don’t go well? There is a litmus test that reveals our progress toward regrooving such habits. It’s called the say-do gap: Do my actions match my words, what I believe I ought to do; my espoused beliefs?

Talking about big ideas with other inquiring minds is essential for any participating member of society. Yet discussions about what ought to be happening “out there” can sometimes be abstract and facile. It’s easier to keep an emotional distance, for instance, when advocating “justice for all” than when talking about my actions this morning.

Over time, wrestling with slice-of-life situations gives us a fresh view of how we make hundreds of day-to-day decisions. As we notice more details and possibilities for moving forward, we become more empathetic, and confident in our judgment. Plus we can have a better sense of making real progress in narrowing our knowing-doing gap.

When thinking about social learning clubs, it helps to understand the advantages of wrestling with micro-situations as well as exploring big ideas.

-Sharon VanderKaay