Insight #2: Knowing Requires Doing

You say you want Agile, but I don't think you know what you're saying "Yes" to yet is the kind of statement that is designed to agitate.

Its designed to invite the question, What does me saying Yes to agile actually mean to me, to my organization and the people who must now deal with us as an organization that is at best at a level of fitness of sit or crawl on its journey to operating with agile practices?

It's a statement that invites thinking accurately about the obligations and the consequences of beginning a transformation journey.

It's a statement that opens the door to straight conversations about the nature of an agile transformation (the never ending series of breakdowns where the application of agile practices discloses where thinking accurately has been displaced by hopeful despair and/or hopeless naiveté ).

And it's a statement that eventually leads to acceptance, willingness and partnership - the acceptance of the duties, obligations and responsibilities, the willingness to say what each can be counted on for and the promise for partnership in the dealing with breakdowns as and when they arise fearlessly, decisively and completely.

Knowing Requires Doing

We attribute the phrase "Knowing requires Doing" to our good friends and colleagues John Patterson and Kirkland Tibbels - co-founders of Influence Ecology. (You can find out more about our work with Influence Ecology here).

Knowing requires doing is an acknowledgment that where knowing comes from is found in the doing and not in the knowing about.

It's one thing to know how to work a zipper - its quite another to know how a zipper works.

There is knowing about and then there is knowing. Knowing is distinct from knowing about. Knowing as it is used here refers to the kind of knowing that when fully integrated is commonly referred to as embodiment or unconscious competence or mastery. We can use the terms of sit, crawl, walk, run and fly as standards of fitness that correlate to how much knowing (from doing) has been integrated.

There is a paradox here in that its the knowing-about that opens the door just enough to get us into the first stages of doing that the knowing-from-the-doing starts to arise.

I can know about sailing by watching tv, reading a book, watching YouTube, reading a website, visiting a regatta, even chatting with friends who sail. But no amount of reading, watching or talking prepares me for the experience of sailing. Sailing as sailing, is sailing - it's not knowing about sailing - its sailing.

This is true for any activity - knowing arises with doing.


Breakdowns only show up against a future we care about. Remove the future we care about and the breakdown disappears.

In the journey to competency- where competency is characterized by thinking accurately and thinking accurately is evidenced as the ability to demonstrate some satisfactory say/do ratio - and fitness is characterized by standards for sit, crawl, walk, run and fly - any gap shows up as a breakdown against the future we care about.