Johnnie Moore

The knowing-doing gap as a creative space

There is so much creative potential in experimenting with putting ideas into practice
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Can we see the gap between theory and practice as a creative space?

Transcript of this video:

I want to talk about this book, the Knowing-Doing Gap which has been on my bookshelf since it came out about 20 years ago.

It’s a very interesting investigation of the challenges organizations face in converting their knowledge into action into actually delivering on what they think they’ve promised people.  

It reminds me a lot of my experience in the world of training and development where I think it’s very easy for people to go on workshops and courses and come away from them, able to talk more cleverly about the subject but not necessarily able to perform more satisfactorily on what they’ve just been taught.

It’s a very human problem. I became aware of an aspect of it 25 years ago when I was doing psychotherapy training in a group that met regularly for two years and in which we became quite skilled at giving each other really clear and direct feedback.

It allowed each of us to discover the, the mismatch between stories we told ourselves about what we were doing and who we were and the details of our actual behaviour.

So we might tell the group that we thought in a certain instance we’d been very assertive and they would point out that, you know something in our body language suggested otherwise either that we were being very aggressive or perhaps that we were actually signaling weakness.

What we thought of as a kind piece of behavior, people would point out the aspects of it that weren’t. And in that feedback, we’d make some really interesting discoveries and I think we’d actually grow.

And I think therefore that calling it a knowing-doing gap maybe slightly pathologises that space because we could think of it as a creative space.

I think that’s what artists do. So for example, when actors are putting on a play, they open up rehearsal space in which they experiment a lot with how they’re actually going to deliver the script if you like, and make it into a play.

And that space is pretty significant, whereas in organisations often there isn’t really rehearsal space. There’s just the talk and the theory and the documentation and then the delivery, which often isn’t really very satisfying or good enough.

I think it’s very interesting in organizations when you can actually create a rehearsal space and look at what’s happening in that space between the theory and the practice.

And you know, one of the things you discover is it’s not just a question of implementing the theory effectively, it’s allowing your performance to change the way that you’re thinking, to change your theory and change what you know about the work that you’re doing.

At a very practical level, I think I experience it every time I try to make one of these videos, because it’s easy for me if I have an idea for a video to sit down and essentially find myself worrying about it. Not necessarily very creatively, but when I kind of force myself to sit in front of this camera and record a first go… It’s never that good the first go or very rarely is it any good.

But just in making it, I start to think differently. And then I might do several iterations. This is probably the eighth or ninth for this particular video.

And gradually it starts to get more interesting. And I learn by performing in this case just to a camera. So I’m going to be exploring this whole idea of rehearsal space a lot more this year.

For example, in February I’m running another online groundhog workshop where we’ll be looking particularly at how to deal with really difficult people and the most provocative things they say to us.

And we’ll use this principle of rehearsal to explore all the many different ways that you might respond to the sorts of things that really push your buttons.

And in March I’m hoping to run the first Into Rehearsal workshop which I’m currently developing with my friend Rob Poynton. We’ll probably do the first one in person here in Cambridge. And we’ll really be looking deep into what kind of rehearsal spaces can we create for each other. So if this idea interests you or you want to come to maybe one or other of those workshops, please do get in touch.

Photo by Fernando Santander on Unsplash

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