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3 Principles of Lean learning

I personally have what feels like hundreds of favourite quotes. It seems for every
situation or scenario I can pull out an appropriate quote from Henry Ford, Taichi Ohno
Shigeo Shingo or Dale Carnegie and many of my favourite quotes come from our lean

Well, this week, I heard another one that stopped me dead in my tracks.   I didn’t start
screaming it from the rooftops.,  it was so powerful I really wanted it to distill in my brain.
By now you’re probably thinking my goodness Brad spit it out already.   So here goes,
this quote comes from a fellow lean maniac and person friend, Ryan Tierney, Seating

“The biggest gap in the world is the gap between knowledge and action”
I almost want to insert a long pause. Read that 10 times and reflect on how much
knowledge you have that you have not taken action on.   How many things could an
outsider point at inside of your business that needs fixing or improving where your
answer would be “yeah, I know”.

Then the more I think about this gap between knowledge and action the more I start
asking questions like how can I reduce this gap?   Or worse, am I inadvertently
widening this gap with education, Sounds crazy, right? But hear me out.

If you’re any kind of lean maniac, you have an insatiable thirst for knowledge. In any
lean community I’ve been exposed to you can’t join a conversation that doesn’t include
the latest amazing book someone has read.  And I gotta admit, there’s almost nothing
more motivational than reading a great book from an author you admire, providing
decades of wisdom that can be consumed inside of a couple of days.

But here’s my hypothesis with regards to widening the gap between knowledge and
Action. In the wise words of Dr. Goldratt, he says you’re not measuring until you’re
using numbers. So let’s apply some general numbers and see how the math unfolds.
Let’s make the assumption that every book we read is worth 50 knowledge points,  I
think it’s safe to say you can pull 50 ideas from every good book.

So if you read one book, the minute you set the book down your gap between

knowledge and action is 50 units.  Then you excitedly go to work and over the next

month you implement 10 of those good ideas.  Now the gap between knowledge and
action is only 40 units.   Congratulations you’re closing the gap.!!!

Now you just returned from a wonderful dinner with some business associates.  They
were raving about this new book, they were reading.  So naturally, you immediately get
a copy and start reading it for yourself.  It turns out to be as wonderful and fascinating as they described.

And you quickly implement two principles you just learned.

Sounds great on the surface, but did you just inadvertently increase the gap between
knowledge and action?    Your two books in and the knowledge gap has grown to 88

Multiply this by only 4 books … and the gap between knowledge and action becomes
170 units.    Imagine what this will look like at 20 books !

I can already hear people up in arms that I’m suggesting reading more books is bad. I

don’t think there is a person on earth who would promote that idea, including myself.
But I would like to put forth some food for thought when it comes to lean learning. My 3
key principles are as follows:

Reading without action, is simply entertainment. No better or worse than sitting on the
sofa doing the preverbal Netflix and chill. (Aside from the benefits of reading or
stimulating your brain with an audio book, I’m sure there is a case for that).
Reading a book once is just about useless. Every time I mention a book to someone
and they say “yes, I’ve read that” trying to give me the impression they understand it, or
have got every bit of knowledge there could possibly be out of it. I usually just quiz
them (if I have read it as well). I say “Cool, what does Dale Carnegie say is the

sweetest sound to anyones ear?” … usually followed by a blank stare. My point is this,
you have an expert who has condensed their life’s work into a book, and you think you

read it once and you got it? No way! One of my favourite go-to books is: “The Toyota
Way”. I could almost recite it word for word, and I bet I have read it (and by read, I
mean audio book) over 300 times. And without exaggeration, every time I hear it, I
learn something new. You could Argue you’re smarter than me, I would probably agree
with you. But 300 times smarter? Your name better be Elon Musk.

Share the knowledge! Particularly if you are on a team, or leading it. When you read a
book you know will be a game changer for your organization, get your key people
involved in reading it with you. If you grow faster than all the people around you then
you just become thecrazy zealot. If there is one sane person in the insane asylum

among 1000 nut jobs. Who do you think they would all vote as the crazy one? Don’t let
that be you. Bring your team along for the journey.

Let’s assume it takes 10 hours to get through a book. This may be something to
consider before you pick up the the next one. Would you be better off spending that 10
hours implementing, planning or practising what you have learning from the last book
before moving on?.
If you squeezed every drop out of a book before you moved on, would you be further
ahead than sporadically implementing from several volumes? I’m not saying its right or

wrong which ever you choose.
But in true lean fashion, I like to question everything.
(You can add 3 points to your knowledge gap if you read this article and don’t take