Anthony Davidson

Knowledge without application is useless

Knowledge without application is useless

The claim that knowledge without application is useless has been attributed to many people. But what does it mean in a business context?

Knowledge is powerful if you can use it to change the way you think, act or operate your business. It can empower you and your people, especially if it is successfully applied. The challenge is overcoming the knowledge-action gap.

Knowledge comes from different sources

As individuals, we acquire knowledge from a range of sources. Family, friends, influencers and the media are important sources. Upbringing, education and life experiences also inform what we know and believe. In business, knowledge comes from your people, suppliers, partners, advisors, external consultants and customers.

Knowledge with application is more valuable

Knowledge is a valuable resource for individuals and businesses. It becomes even more valuable when we apply it to solve problems or make decisions. Storing knowledge until it is needed can be problematic. Individuals accumulate a lot of knowledge. Some of this knowledge is never used, lost, or difficult to remember. Business is the same. Knowledge is stored in our people, processes, systems and culture. Often when key people leave, the impact can be significant unless their knowledge has been properly transferred. In this way, knowledge without application is useless if it is not transferred or embedded.

Overcoming the knowledge-action gap

One of the challenges for business is knowledge overload, which causes a knowledge-action gap. We have access to lots of theories, frameworks, methods and tools for creating a successful business. Knowing how to leverage and manage different types of knowledge is essential for overcoming the knowledge-action gap. Let’s look at four types now.

Explicit knowledge

Explicit knowledge can be documented, transmitted, and learned by anyone because it is easy to share and understand. It can be stored in documents, books, video tutorials, whitepapers, and other forms of verbal or written communication. For example, when a new employee joins a business, the onboarding process and internal knowledge base is the way that explicit knowledge is transferred and shared. The greatest challenge is ensuring that people have access to what they need, that important knowledge is stored, and that the knowledge is reviewed, updated, or discarded.

Implicit knowledge

Implicit knowledge is obtained through experience and can be captured and transmitted. This form of knowledge is extremely important because business performance improves as people translate explicit knowledge into practice. For example, when onboarding new employees, it is not enough to just share explicit knowledge, you also want them to understand why it works and how it makes them more effective.

Tacit knowledge

Tacit knowledge is also gained through experience but cannot be recorded and stored like implicit knowledge. For example, great writing, pitching and leadership skills take time to develop and involve continuous training and coaching. Tacit knowledge is regarded as the most valuable source of knowledge because it can lead to to breakthroughs for businesses. But it is difficult to codify and store because it resides in the minds of people and their skills and expertise.

Embedded knowledge

Similarly, embedded knowledge is locked in processes, products, culture and practices. It can be embedded formally through management initiatives to formalise business practices, or informally through explicit or implicit knowledge. Both tacit and embedded knowledge provide the foundations for developing core competencies that lead to sources of competitive advantage.

Next steps

Start treating knowledge as valuable a resource that can improve business performance and lead to a sustainable competitive advantage. My Better Business Accelerator or Strategy Masterclass is designed to help businesses with this process.