You might expect someone who scores well on a management test to be an excellent manager. However, a recent study found that managers who know principles and procedures often fail to put that knowledge into practice.
Lead researcher Timothy Baldwin and his colleagues identified three types of knowledge:
- principles (know that)
- ability to do something (know how)
- recognizing when and where to use a skill (know to)
Tests can measure the first two types of knowledge (know that and know how). However, they are not as effective at assessing knowing to, which “means having access to one’s knowledge in the moment—knowing to do something when it is needed.”
Based on the study, how-to writers need to do more than explain basic principles and processes. They also need to provide cues that help readers recognize when to apply knowledge.
For example, one principle of email etiquette is that you should exchange no more than three rounds of emails. If you haven’t resolved the issue after three rounds, call or visit face-to-face instead of sending another email. But what if an exchange starts to turn hostile?
Don’t wait for the third round; instead, call or talk in person immediately. Only someone who knows to ignore the rule when exchanges turn hostile can defuse conflict before it escalates.
As you write how-to materials, keep know-that and know-to in mind. Give readers cues about when and where t0 use what they know. Explain the rationale for recommendations so readers can recognize opportunities to apply them. By building know-than and know-to into your how-to training, you’ll develop leaders who can put their knowledge into practice.
Notes: Catherine Lombardozzi describes a 2011 study by Baldwin, Pierce, Joines, and Farouk in “Shocking Evidence of Managers’ Knowing-Doing Gap” in T+D (July 2012): http://www.astd.org/Publications/Magazines/TD/TD-Archive/2012/07/Shocking-Evidence-of-Managers-Knowing-Doing-Gap.aspx