Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action” as Want to Read:
The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  918 ratings  ·  34 reviews
Why are there so many gaps between what firms know they should do and what they actually do? Why do so many companies fail to implement the experience and insight they've worked so hard to acquire? The Knowing-Doing Gap is the first book to confront the challenge of turning knowledge about how to improve performance into actions that produce measurable results. Jeffrey Pfe ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published November 29th 1999 by Harvard Business Review Press (first published 1993)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Knowing-Doing Gap, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Knowing-Doing Gap

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  918 ratings  ·  34 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action
Mar 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
The basic premise of this book is perfectly aligned with my business philosophy - we, as managers, essentially know what to do, we just don't do it often enough. I read lots and lots of business books and in the end, I usually come to the same conclusions: I've heard most of what I've just read, the ideas are variations of a few simple philosophies, I'm energized to go out and do something. What I've realized is that by simply reminding myself how simple business is, I'm motivated to go out and ...more
Mar 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: work
This book goes into one of the biggest problems that companies face - going from knowing something to doing something about it. The chapter titles:

1. knowing "what" to do is not enough
2. when talk substitutes for action
3. when memory is a substitute for thinking
4. when fear prevents acting on knowledge
5. when measurement obstructs good judgment
6. when internal competition turns friends into enemies
7. firms that surmount the knowing-doing gap
8. turning knowledge into action

There's lots of good in
Rick Rogers
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Companies don’t excel when they fail to act on knowledge that is readily available in their organizations. This book describes five root causes of the knowing-doing gap along with methods for counteracting them. The areas are: substituting talk for action, defaulting to precedent, stifling action with fear, poorly applied measurement, and unhealthy internal competition. The examples are somewhat dated, but the principles are sound. I will mention a few things that stood out to me. First, don’t u ...more
Ghuraify Alawi
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The book is a remarkable source of insight about an important issue in organizations. It goes beyond the traditional understanding of knowledge and presents valuable scenarios of how leaders should work to bridge the gap between knowing and doing
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Strong opening, but then ends with a rather weak last two chapters. Also a little too long.

On the positive side, I liked the first part, more than 20 years after this book was published it is still very valid. We have a talk shop culture and translating knowledge to action is still something most companies struggle with it.

I have gained some vocabulary and some patterns that I can use to spot sources for inaction. Good. Recommended to read!
Omar Halabieh
Feb 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The main premise of this book as the authors best summarize it is: "Why knowledge of what needs to be done frequently fails to result in action or behavior consistent with that knowledge. We came to call this the knowing-doing problem - the challenge of turning knowledge about how to enhance organizational performance into actions consistent with that knowledge. This book presents what we learned about the factors that contribute to the knowledge doing gap and why and how some organizations are ...more
Mar 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
as somebody who dabbles in knowledge management as part of my job, this book has helped me recognize the processes that cause problems in my company and identify ways in which I may be able to change those issues. However, it is a company-wide effort to enact changes. All in all this is the best knowledge management book I read in my search for a good one.
Jan 07, 2020 rated it liked it
When you read an old business book, lots of questions come to mind: is the advice relevant? What's changed in the interim? How durable are these kinds of books?

The Knowing-Doing Gap is unique because of the durability of the problem, but ultimately the lack of concrete methods to address it.

The underlying issue is that most people know 'best practices' for certain operations. These aren't rocket science, yet people routinely don't do them. The authors aim to tackle why.

In the end, what results i
Companies pay consultants astounding amounts of money, and then sit on the reports. Sometimes, they will hire new consultants for the exact same analysis. Why are there so many gaps between what firms know they should do and what they actually do? Why do so many companies fail to implement the experience and insight they've worked so hard to acquire? The Knowing-Doing Gap is the first book to confront the challenge of turning knowledge about how to improve performance into actions that produce m ...more
Tim Hughes
Sep 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
While “the knowing-doing gap” was published 21 years ago, it is still very relevant today.

I see so many people that misunderstand the difference between information and action.

The knowing-doing gap. The assumption is that if I give you knowledge (usually in the form of PowerPoint) you will go and do something.

Knowing and doing are two, very different things.

This book walks you through, what you, as a business needs to go to bridge that gap.

I have to admit that even though the book is 21 years
Jul 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Clear writing that transmits the core idea that knowing is not enough, and often doing with partial knowing is better than delayed action. The book shows an interesting link between enabling doing and the wider culture within the organisation. A good manifesto of actions and priorities at the end of the book is a helpful reference.
Romeo Verga
May 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
very good key point drawn from this book. not overly fluffed with anecdotes can draw value from this book. this has continued my momentum in taking action any kind of action.
Deiwin Sarjas
Mar 11, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Although I'm neither in a managerial nor an executive position, I feel that a lot of the book was still very relevant to me. Most notably, substituting talk and planning for action is something that can and does happen at all levels of an organization, not just the executive. Same goes for knowing by reading vs knowing by doing. Similarly, I suppose some of these lessons carry over from the professional to the personal life, which hope was partly the reason I picked this book up in the first pla ...more
Jan 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: journalism managers
A number of important insights presented in a very simple and straightforward (i.e. not very academic, although the authors are both professors at Stanford) way. Good for them. They make a strong case that least internal not all it's cracked up to be. I also liked their presentation of studies on self-fulfilling prophecy...e.g. if leaders/teachers EXPECT a certain group of students/employees to do well, bada bing, they tend to actually do so. Interesting.

Oct 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best management books that I've read. It really gets to the heart of what holds organizations back from learning and performing. I found it really relevant at the time I was working with AIESEC; when it felt like all the people in the organization were doing was just talking about doing something, but not actually bringing what was in our minds alive in our every day. It's quite useful from the perspective of what types of systems can be put into place to support individuals i ...more
Alex Jonas
Mar 30, 2011 rated it really liked it
This book did a great job of presenting an important idea in business, the knowing-doing gap, something that probably deserves a great deal more attention than it gets. People are really focused on knowing what the right thing to do for their business is, but no one seems to give much thought to the fact that people might already know what to do, but not be doing it. This books points out a lot of reasons why people might not be doing what they know they should do, with some ideas that might be ...more
Dec 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: employees of companies that struggle with the truth
Another topic in which I am in the middle of currently, but so far, it is hitting the nail on the head.

Being from an industry that contains everyday professed experts, I have found it hard and discouraging to see the amount of "managers" that roam the offices today without a background or clue as too how things are to be implemented. Sitting through meeting after meeting in which these said managers proclaim change and growth through "learned" or "read" tactics, I know first hand how the gap wi
Nov 13, 2011 rated it it was amazing
An excellent reminder of some of the factors that get in the way of corporate success - when people (incl senior leadership) at a company know what to do, but are unable to execute their plans.

The key factors that they discuss are: talk substituting for action, memory substituting for thinking, fear preventing acting on knowledge, measurement obstructing good judgement, and internal competition turning friends into enemies.
Lamec Mariita
Jan 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book is a must read for anyone struggling to implement new strategies. What's amazing about the a book is that most of it is actually common sense. It uncovers some common mistakes we do but we're afraid to correct them. It's very helpful in linking strategy to action. It's straight forward and easy to read. It's a must read for every business leader who wants to get out from under knowing what to do and move to doing the things that need to be done to move their organization forward. ...more
May 17, 2015 rated it it was ok

Not bad, but nothing really new or terribly insightful. Expected more from Pfeffer. It's an ok book on org change, but it's too boringly written and its cases lack the right level of detail and supporting data to avoid being simply generic and quickly forgettable. The quotes are particularly bad; they tend be to be repetitive, vague, meaningless or too abstract.

I find that better writers (such as the Heath brothers) can bring these org change themes to life in more impactful ways.
Jan 22, 2016 rated it liked it
OK, this book isn't the most current out there. But it does make some good points how organizations get bogged down talking about doing things, then don't do them. Even good managers know what to do, but have all kinds of reasons for not acting. If you feel your company is held back because of failure to act, read this. It may help you get moving again. ...more
Barbara Lovejoy
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I felt I had a fairly good understanding of this dilemma but this book truly opened my eyes. I have a better understanding of what the barriers are and how to address them. This will be extremely helpful for our Esperanza Elementary charter school.
May 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 100-best
This book was included in my book: The 100 Best Business Books of All Time. ...more
Alyssa Hudak
Sep 09, 2009 rated it it was ok
have to read for one of my MBA classes
Juan Carlos Moreno
Apr 17, 2011 rated it it was amazing
One of the most influential business books I've read. Gets to the root causes of why organizations fail to act on what they know is right. ...more
Jun 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Excellent book that can help to become better in what ever industry you work. Strongly recommend for low and mid level managers.
Ed van der Winden
Jul 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I wholeheartedly agree with the author's. However, in the end I expected a little more than an endless row of examples. I would have liked some theory or some more conclusions. ...more
Jan 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: business
It's a little dry and academic, but has good information about doing stuff instead of talking about it. ...more
Ani Huỳnh
Feb 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An innovation book that every executives should read!
Brad Hayes
Jan 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Pretty simple premise: most of the time, people know what they should do to improve performance, but for a variety of reasons they don't take action to implement that knowledge. ...more
« previous 1 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • The Fabulous Phonograph, 1877-1977
  • Lean Six Sigma : combining Six Sigma quality with lean speed
  • The Way of the SEAL: Think Like an Elite Warrior to Lead and Succeed
  • Find Your Why: A Practical Guide to Discovering Purpose for You and Your Team
  • Boss Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan for Taking Charge of Your Life, Your Career, and Your Business
  • Tipping Point: The End is Here
  • The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership Workbook: Revised and   Updated
  • Stop Guessing: The 9 Behaviors of Great Problem Solvers
  • Black Box Thinking: Why Some People Never Learn from Their Mistakes - But Some Do
  • The Bomber Mafia: A Dream, a Temptation, and the Longest Night of the Second World War
  • Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley's Bill Campbell
  • Limitless: Upgrade Your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock Your Exceptional Life
  • Reengineering the Corporation: A Manifesto for Business Revolution
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance
  • Make Time: How to Focus on What Matters Every Day
  • Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction
  • THE WICKED COMPANY: When Growth is Not Enough
  • The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization
See similar books…

Goodreads is hiring!

If you like books and love to build cool products, we may be looking for you.
Learn more »
See top shelves…
Jeffrey Pfeffer is the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University where he has taught since 1979. He is the author or co-author of thirteen books including The Human Equation: Building Profits by Putting People First; Managing with Power; The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge Into Action; Hidden Value: How Great ...more

Related Articles

  Luvvie Ajayi Jones—author, cultural critic, digital entrepreneur—might be best described as a professional truthteller. Her crazily popular...
54 likes · 0 comments
“Now consider the essence of the management education process—the business school experience—as practiced at leading institutions in the United States as well as those throughout the world. The essence of this education process is talk—learning how to sound smart in case discussions or to write smart things (talk turned into writing) on essay examinations based on business cases. In business school classes, a substantial part of students’ grades is based on how much they say and how smart they sound in class discussion. Robert” 0 likes
“The usual place to stand is in the existing set of constraints, issues, and opportunities that confront the organization…. Using this approach, managers typically conduct a financial and organizational analysis, identify what opportunities and threats exist, what strengths and weaknesses the organization has, and then formulate a strategy that is intended to exploit the opportunities and minimize or eliminate the threats…. The boat is patched but it is still the same boat and most likely will only continue on the old course at about the same velocity or a little faster…. Our recommended approach is to stand in a future that is not directly derived from present conditions and circumstances…. Although the future is informed by the past, it is as “past-free” as possible…. When I say the future is “past-free,” I mean that the future should not be an extrapolation, extension, or modification of the past.” 0 likes
More quotes…