You have probably had the experience of not being able to tell somebody a phone number until you dialed it. Or perhaps you have given poor directions to a place you can easily drive to. This happens because we are able to remember procedures and tasks better than specific step-by-step information. The other side of the coin is that you shouldn’t think somebody doesn’t know how to do something, just because she can’t tell you how to do it. For example, a colleague might not be able to explain to you how to do something on the computer. If you have reason to believe that she knows procedurally, you might ask her to show you how she does it.

This explaining-doing gap has large implications in the workplace and in schools. Too often we don’t look at what people can actually do. Instead, we listen to their talk about the subject. I’ve seen tests in schools that favor those who don’t actually know how to do a thing, but who can talk their way through it and I have seen mechanics tests that ask for the words about how to repair cars, but don’t measure actual car repair. If you are assessing others, look at what they can do. If you are being assessed, show people what you can do.

Author's Bio: 

Tad Waddington says he achieved literacy while getting his MA from the University of Chicago’s Divinity School where he focused on the history of Chinese religions. He achieved numeracy while getting his PhD from the University of Chicago in measurement, evaluation and statistical analysis. He achieved efficacy as Director of Performance Measurement for Accenture. He is currently seeking to achieve a legacy with such books as Return on Learning and Lasting Contribution. To find out more, go to