The phrase 'knowledge is power' drives me a little crazy. And while I don't completely disagree with the statement itself, I cringe at the context in which it is often placed. I hear the term 'knowledge' positioned in such a way that suggests it's the only thing one needs to out-maneuver the competition; as if it's the key to some mysterious and elusive path to success. But knowledge isn't power, action is. Knowledge is just a tool.
I've witnessed many business situations where knowledge wasn't the constraint; rather, acting on that knowledge was the bottleneck. Business owners may have known what needed to be done, but either took the wrong steps or, worse, did nothing at all. In these cases, knowledge wasn't power – it was a tool waiting to be used.
The entire weight loss industry benefits from the difference between knowledge and action. When I see myself carrying around a few extra pounds, I don't wonder what I need to do. I already know what to do. I need to exercise more, eat a healthier diet, drink more water and get ample rest. But making these key adjustments in my life...well, that's another story. I don't need a personal trainer to get to the root cause of my weight gain; I need to step outside of myself and imagine what a personal trainer would recommend as a safe and proactive way to make a difference and start doing that.
It's not about knowing what to do, it is about doing what you know needs to be done.
The difference between the knowledge and action has to do with a person's mindset. While a personal trainer or a business coach or a board of directors can go a long way to help you hold yourself accountable, it's ultimately up to you, the business owner, to apply action.
As a business owner myself, I've been in lots of situations when problems or opportunities arose unexpectedly and I wasn't sure what to do next. The first action I always take is to writing down my knowns and unknowns, pros and cons, the current state and the future state. I find writing these things down much more powerful that trying to sort them in my head. It's just easier to see and relate to them when they're written in black and white.
Next, I look for knowledge gaps. Where in my situation is knowledge needed as a tool to help direct me to the appropriate action? Then I apply action to fill in the knowledge gaps and build a plan.
Next, I act on the plan. Obviously, acting with no knowledge isn't likely to help much – in fact, it might make things worse. But action is the key.
This may all seem rudimentary, I realize. But in my experience, it's more common for businesses to have knowledge and not take action, at which point, knowledge is useless. I see this with owners who refuse to fire an employee they know is dragging them down. I see entrepreneurs refusing to make personal and business sacrifices in the short term for the long term good.
Find your path and take action. The best laid plans are just that: plans. It's action that will make all the difference.
Chris Griffiths is the Toronto-based director of fine tune consulting, a boutique management consulting practice. Over the past 20 years, he has started or acquired and exited seven businesses.