Knowledge is nothing until you’ve applied it



WRITING about business management carries with it many benefits, 80 percent of which are wholly psychological, while the remaining 20 percent can only be monetized as soon as I receive my social security benefits or whatever is left of it.

The most important thing, however, is that it allows me to divide my time pretty much equally as a not-so well-known writer, college teacher, social media enthusiast, learning events producer and business consultant while trying to do some tax deductible housework when the wife is unusually cranky.

Lucky me. Those same articles (written professionally since 1993) would give me a new high when they’re compiled and published in a book format that caters to a different market on any given subject, from human resources to total quality management, and everything printable on recycled paper.

Sooner than one can imagine, the psychological advantage becomes materially rewarding when corporate leaders invite me to facilitate some exclusive workshops for their organization. And that’s where good money comes in, such as during my recent engagement with a major bank, where I was tasked to talk about “invisible operational wastes.”

At least, their managers had an open mind. Their ideals were fortified when we discussed the age-old “invisible gorilla” and the “five monkeys” experiments done by some scientists. Maybe, that’s how some people call management consulting – purely a monkey business.

Regardless of how one wants to call it, the truth of the matter is – you need to come up with a solid argument on why corporate leaders must embrace continual change. It is not enough to read business books (and this column) and leave their pages to turn yellow with age in the bookshelves.

You’ve got to do something with what you’ve learned. You have to test the principles right away. Of course, I’ve met a lot of people who told me they would not work for some ill-conceived reason – many of which boil down to protecting their comfort zones and territorial integrity. If that happens, I would offer them results-based consulting. If nothing happens or if I fail to suggest new ways to earn money, then they don’t have to pay me anything.

That’s how confident I’ve become.

As an academician-writer and a whistle-blower of stupid management policies, I realize just how difficult it is to transfer knowledge to some people who refuse to accept them, given all the convincing techniques in many management classics, including Sun Tzu’s Art of War.

Really, you can bring a horse to a river but you can’t force it to drink.

In my attempt to justify some stupid managers’ reaction, I can take solace in the many buzzwords that come to me when I need help to understand what’s going on. Off the top of my head, there’s “domain dependence.” According to Nassim Nicholas Taleb, domain dependence happens because we are “handicapped in a similar way, unable to recognize ideas when presented in a different context. It is as if we were doomed to be fooled by the most possibly superficial part of things, the packaging, the gift-wrapping paper around the object.”

Professor Taleb, a Lebanese-American scholar and essayist who became famous with the publication of his bestselling opus entitled, “The Black Swan” (2007), says on Facebook that domain dependence can be explained when someone trying to learn a new language is “unable to transfer concepts from one tongue to another, so he would need to relearn “chair” or “love,” or “apple pie” every time he acquires a new language.”

That’s why I don’t use Japanese terms when I talk to non-Japanese clients. Of course, I use clearly worded business English, and at some point, Taglish to make it more palatable to my Filipino audiences. Otherwise, it will make learning more difficult and a stumbling block to progress. What accounts for your success in the past may now be your own poison, if not your prison walls. The transfer from a different perspective to another perspective becomes particularly difficult to navigate.

That’s how some managers who are charismatic leaders in the office could become miserable fathers and husbands at home. What you believe in a different context is difficult to transfer to another. Of course, my message to you in this article is not an exception. You should not take my word for it. Go and find out for yourself.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating.

Rey Elbo is a business consultant specializing in human resources and total quality management as a fused interest. Send feedback to or follow him on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter for his random management thoughts.


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