Thursday 24 March 2022

From KIT to KIA

I was reviewing a coaching programme with a client the other day; a very successful leader working at a high level in a complex organisation.

And he said that one of the things that had been most beneficial was almost a blinding flash of the obvious. Along the way, I had recommended that he read David Rock's book, Your Brain at Work (I recommend it to you, too, of course). 

He, of course, learned what he needed to from it, not necessarily what I had imagined he might. The most significant thing being that the brain gets tired during the day; and that doing highly demanding brain tasks in the evening is not very productive. 

He already knew that, of course.  But he knew it as a piece of intellectual knowledge, neatly filed in some area of his memory. 

What he hadn't done is access that knowledge each day, when he decided to get through all the relatively straightforward (though urgent and often important) emails first thing before going into a day filled with meetings. That left his important work on organisational strategy and planning, and work to progress key projects, to the evening - on the basis that he could give them his full attention then, without interruption.

But having read Rock's book, he realised why he was finding the important work so difficult and so draining: his brain was already tired. 

So by way of experiment, he booked some morning time each day to work on these priorities; deferring some meetings and doing his emails later in the day.  The results were most gratifying: he found the strategic and project work both easier and more enjoyable.

And as he said, he should have realised that years ago. But for me that highlights the difference between KIT (knowledge in theory) and KIA (knowledge in action). It is very easy, not least in intellectual environments such as Universities, to assume that if we know something, we know it. But that is not the case with practical skills. I may know how to do all sorts of things, from playing golf to playing the bagpipes, but until I have practiced sufficiently to acquire the skills involved, that knowledge is purely theoretical.

So it is valuable to remember that distinction, and when you have learned something of value, create ways to use that learning in a practical way, until it is not only KIT but also KIA. 

And returning to my client's particular insight, do the important stuff early in the day; and if you are thinking that in your case that's not good advice, think again. If your brain is not more awake early in the day, is that because your lifestyle needs to change? Or, of course, you may have small children and no sleep,  in which case, give yourself a break: the important thing is to spend the time with them, and love their other parent. KIT and KIA become Kip If Tired, and Kip If Awake - whenever you get the chance...

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