My university was all about theory. Philosophy, political thought, literary criticism, dinosaurs and meteors. I even read Derrida.

My brain was filled with ideas, but I couldn’t do anything. Or so I thought.

There’s wisdom in theory.

Quote: theory & practice are not the same

Of course, I quickly discovered that all that theory is useful. That I had been equipped with the tools of critical thought–which often gives you an edge in the business world.

I had a conversation about theory and practice recently with a woman who’d had a practical undergraduate education followed by a crash course in theoretical thought. She was talking about culture shock, and how hard it was at first to adjust to a discussion about ideas. Gradually, she too came to understand the wisdom in that approach.

Your foundation comes first.

You need to understand what you’re doing before you can make smart, informed decisions (and take action).

You need to know how to tackle a challenge. You need to be able to identify your options and formulate a plan of action. Just Do It is great for getting off the couch; not so useful, however, for building a new product, hiring new team members, or developing a new marketing campaign.

Organizations (well, the people within organizations) too often skip the why and jump right into the what. It’s a mistake. You need the theory before the practice, and the goals before the tasks.

Photos by Puuiki Beach and Ed Schipul (Flickr).