Facilitation | Coaching | Research  

Knowledge Isn't Always Power

Updated: Jan 14, 2020

Three things coincided recently.

1. I led a very well-attended workshop at the World Congress for Positive Psychology (#WCPP2019) in Melbourne, called Creative Futures: Failure, Flow and Flexibility.

2. I ran a workshop for the public in the week following, called Speak with Confidence, which had a much (emphasis on the much!) lower attendance rate.

3. I stumbled upon an article in "The New Scientist", about brain-hacks to outsmart ourselves, in which one of the segments was titled, Don't Rely on Conscious Thoughts.

The Article

This article made the point that when it comes to behavioural change, 'knowing' what needs to be done is never going to get us there! In fact, a 2016 study found that when 10 000 participants were provided with information about their impending health issues and told they needed to change aspects of their lifestyles, although it did change the way they thought about their health, it had no impact whatsoever on what they actually did.

Of course, this is not entirely our fault. Habits are reinforced by a brain structure called the striatum, which links our behaviours to feelings of pleasure. In the early habit-forming phase, the pre-frontal cortex (responsible for planning and impulse control) is involved. But after numerous repetitions, the pre-frontal cortex abdicates, as it is needed for other more 'executive' things, leaving only the striatum's reward and action loop.

You can see where this is going, right?

In the end, we have developed a subconscious habit (like grabbing that extra chocolate bar for the commute home), and no amount of 'knowing' about the consequences is likely to get us to turf it into the nearest bin.

Workshop 2: Speaking for Impact

This got me thinking about the lower attendance rate at my public workshop, and specifically a conversation I'd had with another consultant friend, as we lamented the apparent apathy we were currently witnessing from the population in general.

"What was it," we pondered, "that made people so unwilling to take the plunge into a live workshop or interactive coaching session, where they had to move away from their screens, interact with live humans and potentially give up part of their weekend?"

While it's clearly a pretty complex dynamic, one of the things we discussed was the ready availability of tips and tricks that could be found on the internet. If you want to Speak for Impact, then surely you can just read a blog or watch a free youtube clip..............right?

Well, not exactly.

If we consider the wisdom from the article, the most likely scenario is that we may learn some new knowledge about projecting our voice or using gesture in a certain way, but unless we then use it, gain feedback on it, practise will ultimately end up being next to useless.

.......which brings me to.......

Workshop 1: Creative Futures

Now, a conference is a very different platform from a public workshop, where participants have already committed to being there for two or three days and the workshops are laid out like a smorgasbord for our dabbling pleasure (I must confess, I actually attended several that were scheduled at the same time, as I tried to greedily indulge in the best of everything!)

And so, as a presenter, I did not have any problem garnering interest in the Creative Futures workshop I was running at the World Congress. But, here's the interesting part! A number of participants who attended this workshop found me during the course of the weekend and told me that this was their favourite workshop; the one they would most remember and talk about - here's the clincher - because it was so interactive!

This makes me think that we are actually seeking more interactivity; not less. It's just about getting out of our own way, putting aside the screen and signing up for that cool-sounding workshop that has piqued our interest.


There are so many benefits to attending a live workshop - from developing other parts of ourselves that have been subjugated at work, to connecting with like-minded souls, if only for a few hours. Interactive coaching has a similar effect, in that you are experiencing change, rather than having the same old conversation about wanting to change.

Whatever your interests or needs, do take the plunge and sign up for some workshops or interactive coaching sessions this year. Just make sure they are doing-based and experiential and aren't just about disseminating knowledge.......because now you know that when it comes to integrating new behaviours, those are unlikely to do you very much good.

For a full list of Kirsten Cottone's interactive workshops, learn more here.


To work with Kirsten in a one-on-one, interactive coaching session, learn more here.


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© Kirsten Cottone 2020