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Do you suffer from DKO (Declarative Knowledge Overload)?

Posted on 19 October 2017
Do you suffer from DKO (Declarative Knowledge Overload)?

You Probably do.

DKO is like a knockout punch that cognitively floors us every day. We are no longer living in the age of information we are now living in the age of information overload.

And with this overload comes nasty side effects that are becoming ever more noticeable.

Declarative knowledge is what is available to your conscious brain. You can verbalise and contemplate it. This is about knowing 'that'. For example, you may know that to ride a bike reqires you to pedal and keeping your balance by steering, but that doesn't mean you can ride a bike. Riding the bike requires procedural knowledge, which is about knowing 'how'. Here the brain learns how to perform the pedaling and steering motions to keep you upright and riding.

Procedural knowledge, which is knowing how. Procedural hard to verbalise. Unfortunately, you can't transfer your procedural knowledge to someone else. They can take your advice, or follow your directions, but they will have to practice themselves.

While our brains struggle to figure out what new knowledge is worthy of implementation and practice, we feel overwhelm, and our productivity drops. Do you sometimes have so much to do you don't know what to attend to next, and give up and go look at 

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a screen or have a nap? This is the knockout punch of DKO - Declarative Knowledge  Overload.You've been DKO'd.

Your brain has a brilliant solution to information overload, because the brain has realised something that many of us haven't: regardless of what we do today, the world will still continue tomorrow. So why should the brain bother to change its ways when it can just do nothing instead?

So, rather than practicing new skills, we instead build up an ever-growing declarative knowledge database that makes us feel like we know a lot. But, constantly learning new things doesn't mean anything if you don't put it into practice.

DKO is about unintegrated and unimplemented declarative knowledge.

DKO leads to:

  • Uncritical investigation reinforces bias
  • DKO makes us resistant to critical investigation
  • you can find substantial evidence to prove whatever you want to believe in 

The well-read person is quick to cite some study in order to look smart or shoot down an idea. Yet for all their knowledge, They still do things the same way they have for the last 20 years.

I often know exactly what I should be doing, but still I don't do it. Many of us fit into this category because it can so often feel like we are doing the right thing by accumulating knowledge; except that we just haven't got around to actually using it, yet.  I often see the same effects from professional development training. Many programs shower people with information, building up declarative knowledge void of application. Without application and practice the newly acquired declarative knowledge fails to translate into procedural knowledge, and is soon forgotten. 

What to do About DKO

Understanding this mechanism of DKO, we can take action to get back up and fight more effectively. Here are three steps to avoid DKO.

1.  Appreciate criticism and be critical

We need to actively look for criticism in our own ideas and the information we are absorbing, so we can weed out the bad declarative knowledge and identify what is worth putting into practice.For example, if you are learning about a new concept, go to its Wikipedia page and see if there is a criticism section. Read through that and see if you feel you can adequately address those points. Also, many people agree with whatever they think you believe, so you need to be a little more devious if you want real criticism. For example, if you are considering an idea and talking to a friend or colleague, present an opposing view first. See if they agree with that, then shift to your original idea and see what they say then. If they just agree with whatever you say, then consider that talking to them will mostly reinforce your own biases.

2.  Look for themes.

When going through Harvard Business Review and all those other articles and papers, don't get lost in the detail. What's more important than a single study or article is if you can see consistent trends in a concept or an idea. This further helps to weed out declarative knowledge with little or no evidence behind it, helping you focus on ideas worthy of your attention.

PR6 Resilense Profile and ResiCoach Training at Talent Tools3.  Integrate and apply

Through your own creative combination of different ideas, and putting your integrated idea into practice, that you can set yourself apart as a leader. This happens by taking critically evaluated themes built on good evidence and following through to develop not just the declarative knowledge, but also the procedural knowledge. This takes courage to do, and you might even find out you were wrong about a thing or two, but the reward is a chance to lead the pack.

Neuroscience explains that it takes time and practice for the brain to change. It's through this practice that declarative knowledge turns into hard-wired procedural knowledge that we can then rely on, even under pressure. The better we embed these skills in ourselves, the better we can then explain them to others and pass on the knowledge.

By establishing an environment within which others can develop aligned procedural knowledge, you can develop cultural change within an organisation.


To find out more contact team@talenttools.com.au

A few questions to consider:

Do you see DKO in others?
Do you see people absorb knowledge but not actually change their behaviour?
Do you see DKO in yourself perhaps learning but not getting around to implementing?


What are you doing to manage information overload? Considering that it's only going to get worse in the future.



Adaped from an original article You Probably Suffer from Declarative Knowledge Overload Posted on: 13 July 2017 by Jurie Rossouw


Tags:PR6Building Workplace ResilienceWorkplace ResilienceResilience at Work

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