Models for coaching

Knowing Doing Gap

The Knowing Doing Gap refers to the difference between knowing what needs to be done and actually taking action to do it.

Useful in coaching for ADHD, Building a Plan, Exploring Options, Making a Change, Setting Goals, Understanding Behaviour 

Knowing Doing Gap

What is The Knowing Doing Gap?

The Knowing Doing Gap is a concept that refers to the disparity between what we know we should do and what we actually do. It’s when we have the knowledge, the skills, or the ability to accomplish something, but we still don’t act on it. The Knowing Doing Gap is loosely attributed to Jeffrey Pfeffer, who wrote a book of the same name. It’s often the result of fear, procrastination, or lack of motivation, but it can also be due to other factors such as lack of resources or time.

Knowing Doing Gap

It’s important to understand that the Knowing Doing Gap doesn’t imply ignorance. It’s not about not knowing what to do, but rather about not doing what we know. It’s the difference between knowledge and action, between theory and practice. It’s the gap between intention and execution, between planning and implementation.

The Knowing Doing Gap is a universal phenomenon. It affects all of us, regardless of our age, our profession, or our cultural background. It’s present in our personal lives, in our professional lives, and in our social lives. It’s a part of our human nature, a part of our human condition. But that doesn’t mean we have to accept it. On the contrary, understanding the Knowing Doing Gap is the first step towards overcoming it.

Background to the The Knowing Doing Gap

The concept of the Knowing Doing Gap has been around for a long time, but it was popularized by business professors Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton in their book “The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action.” They argued that many companies and organizations fail not because they don’t know what to do, but because they don’t do what they know.

The idea behind the Knowing Doing Gap is not new. It can be traced back to the ancient Greeks and their concept of akrasia, or weakness of will. It’s also related to the psychological theories of cognitive dissonance and self-deception. However, the Knowing Doing Gap is not just a philosophical or psychological issue. It’s a practical problem that affects our everyday lives.

The Knowing Doing Gap is not just about knowledge and action, but also about learning and change. It’s about the difficulty of translating knowledge into action, of turning ideas into reality. It’s about the challenge of changing our behavior, of breaking old habits and creating new ones. It’s about the struggle of implementing change, whether it’s personal change, organizational change, or societal change.

How it affects our personal lives

The Knowing Doing Gap affects our personal lives in many ways. It’s the reason why we don’t exercise even though we know it’s good for our health. It’s the reason why we don’t save money even though we know it’s important for our financial security. It’s the reason why we don’t eat healthy even though we know it’s beneficial for our wellbeing.

It’s not just about the big decisions in our lives, but also about the small everyday choices. It’s about the tasks we procrastinate, the commitments we neglect, the opportunities we miss. It’s about the things we want to do, but we don’t do. It’s about the dreams we have, but we don’t pursue.

The gap isn’t only present in our personal lives, but also in society. It’s the reason why we don’t vote even though we know it’s crucial for our democracy. It’s the reason why we don’t recycle even though we know it’s necessary for our environment. It’s the reason why we don’t volunteer even though we know it’s valuable for our community.

5 Examples of the Knowing Doing Gap

  1. Health and Fitness: We all know the benefits of exercise and a balanced diet, but many of us struggle to maintain a consistent workout routine or to eat healthily.
  2. Financial Planning: We understand the importance of saving money and investing for the future, but often fail to budget or plan our finances effectively. This discrepancy between what we know and what we do is another instance of the gap.
  3. Professional Development: Many professionals are aware of the value of continuous learning and upskilling. However, despite this knowledge, not everyone invests the necessary time and effort into developing their skills or learning new ones.
  4. Environmental Sustainability: Most people are aware of the urgent need for sustainable living to protect the environment. However, many continue with wasteful practices, highlighting a significant Knowing Doing Gap.
  5. Relationships: We often know what we should do to build and maintain healthy relationships, whether it’s communication, compromise, or showing appreciation. But not every time we practice what we know, resulting in the Knowing Doing Gap.

How to use the Knowing Doing Gap in coaching

Coaching is a powerful tool to bridge the Knowing Doing Gap. A coach can help individuals become aware of their own gap, understand the reasons behind it, and develop strategies to overcome it. The goal of coaching is not just to provide knowledge, but to facilitate action.

The first step is to help individuals identify their Knowing Doing Gap. This can be done through self-reflection, feedback, or assessment tools. Once the Knowing Doing Gap is identified, the next step is to explore the reasons behind it. This involves understanding the barriers to action, whether they are internal (like fear or procrastination) or external (like lack of resources or support).

The final step in using the Knowing Doing Gap in coaching is to help individuals develop a plan to bridge their Knowing Doing Gap. This includes setting realistic goals, creating action plans, building support systems, and developing coping strategies. A coach can also provide accountability and encouragement to help individuals stay on track and stay motivated.

5 questions to cross the bridge from knowing to doing

  1. What is the Knowing Doing Gap that you are facing?
  2. What are the reasons behind this gap?
  3. What are the potential consequences if this gap is not addressed?
  4. What are the steps you can take to bridge this gap?
  5. How can you maintain the progress and prevent the gap from reappearing?

These questions can help individuals reflect on their Knowing Doing Gap and develop a plan to overcome it. They can also help coaches guide their clients in their journey from knowing to doing.


The Knowing Doing Gap is a universal phenomenon that affects all aspects of our lives. It’s the disparity between what we know and what we do, between our intentions and our actions. While the Knowing Doing Gap is a challenge, it’s also an opportunity for growth and change. By understanding our own situation and taking steps to bridge it, we can turn our knowledge into action, our ideas into reality, and our dreams into achievements.

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