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GTD, Entrpreneurs and the GAP

May 10, 2011

You’re probably familiar with David Allen’s concept of the “fundamental
thought process”e.g. “What’s the desired outcome? And, what’s the next
action?”  But in this blog, I’d like to pull back the sheets and show you
something really powerful that happens in the GAP between those two

Something really powerful occurs between the idea, the opportunity, the
desired outcome and THE NEXT ACTION.  Interestingly most people
I talk to see it, but sort of miss it.  What I’ve had fun cataloguing lately,
and am going to describe, is that what happens in the GAP turns out to
be not only influential in getting things done, but also a powerful
evaluation tool or back-drop for looking at new opportunities and the people
attached to them.  Something every person who has an Entrepreneurial
thought can take advantage of.

Bridging the Gap

Here goes. First off a word of warning about the desireable outcome start.
The opportunity, the innovation, the new insight, the next big thing.
Whatever words you use to describe the start, starts always seem to
share some remarkable similarities.  Let me list a couple of my

1. A start has or paints a desireable outcome that’s incomplete.  An outcome
that you can see happening for yourself, an outcome which is only partically
defined and you and I quite readily fill in the blanks… with positive attributes,
of course.

2. Then there’s that visceral, Pavlov dog thing.  Most entrepreneurs I work
with  start “slobbering” when they come across an innovative idea or product,
or when they see some service or product gap in the market.  They can
taste it, and the more they talk about it, the more they can get themselves
and or others worked up.  “This is going to be great.  Everyone needs
this.  We’re going to rule the world, make a killing”… or fill in your own
perferred “rush” word.  It’s not just a thought, it’s got physical and
emotional momentum to it.

Ok, so we got all that heat going on, and then we get to the 2nd half of Allen’s
fundamental thought process.  What’s the next action (to get us closer to
the desired outcome)?

Here’s where it gets really interesting to me.  It almost doesn’t matter
what the next action step is. Yes I know there are good plans and bad
plans; “What were you thinking?” and really very clever action plans.
But stay with me, and take a look at the GAP between the thought and the action.

Facing the fact that innovation and new opportunities and the plans to
achieve them aren’t nearly as  tightly correlated with making money as
one would think… I have come to appreciate that often what’s most important
when looking at opportunities and likelihood of success… is what happens
in the GAP.

So what happens in the GAP between having the idea of the great outcome
and the next action step?



What happens in the gap between the idea and the action step, is what
you want to pay attention to.  It defines others, it defines us.  It
charaterizes us, it paints our stripes.  Is a pattern, whether we jump in,
put off, focus,or focus on something else, personalize, refer, defer, forget,
obsess, etc.  You see there are all sorts of ways to fill the gap.   And we all
fill it pretty consistently with our MO (method of operation), our enduring pattern.

Guess what?  Here’s my big insight for this blog.

People will show you and me their stripes, their pattern, how they are going
to operate long term, in the first few interactions with them.  If we simply
pay attention to how they manage the first couple of gaps between ideas and
talk surrounding it… and action steps.  It’s right there, and what you get at
first, usually doesn’t change much over time.  It certainly rarely ever gets
better… in case you were wondering.

What you do in the GAP, is my best predictor for your likelihood to get
things done.  Not only is it that simple, it’s a predictive pattern that most of us
don’t vary much.

Bottom Line:

The GAP between David Allens two fundamental thoughts processes,
the outcome and the next action step, turns out to be a rich area for
observation.  I believe it is one of the best predictors for what’s going
to happen next in every business opportunity and relationship.
It’s a consistent pattern and if you pay attention and don’t ignore or
rationalize over it, you’ll find it is revealed in the very first couple of
interactions for all of us.  The good news is that it is a pattern.  It’s
not concrete.  You can change it.  However I guess that would depend on
whether or not you could get excited enough about the positive outcome
to actively engage in the necessary action steps 😉  There’s that GAP again.


7 Comments. Leave new

This reminds me of two verities: People will tell you what they’re like, you just need to listen. The other quip goes like this: “Your actions speak so loudly, I can’t hear what you’re saying. The pattern that transpires within the gap is something I have witnessed time and again in others as well as myself. When I begin to read someone’s promotional content, I can often get a pretty good idea by step 2 and before I invest too much time delving into their material. If you are considering a person for a business partnership, you can usually get a good feel for their work experience, habits or abilities by observing how they initially respond to a challenge or task. Is this related to the behavior pattern this article is touching on, or have I missed the point?


You’re right on track. Paying attention to the information at hand is quite an art to learn.


Can’t what happens in the GAP also cause the plan to fail? Say I have a plan and a foreseeable outcome to this plan but in the GAP I lack the self confidence or motivation to act on it, that would cause it to fail right there right.


Carmela, there’s a great book entitled, A Failure of Nerve by Friedman that speaks to this issue well. A failure of nerve gives all of us the “clutches” and “less than” results.


Okay, I get the concept of recognizing the pattern and the reaction of a person after they visualize the desired outcome. I think it’s one of those things you just know when you see it. It may be a bit easier to recognize that pattern in others than in yourself, at least for the kinds of persons who are apt to pass judgment and see themselves as infallible. In other words, hypocrites. It’s good to know that is a recognizable pattern for those who are aware of this and who can be self critical. This is a positive affirmation that it’s possible for any of us to improve our work habits and results.


Thanks for the comments. Yes recognizing patterns, even if it is easier to do in others, is still a wonderful opportunity to move out of that reactive space and get ahead of the process, move the conversation towards the outcome that’s best for you.


Over the years, I have been surprised by how much of the visceral, Pavlov dog thing proves to be true in business. Some of the most successful entrepreneurs I have ever come across tend to react emotionally when they come across a keen idea or business concept and they do the things you described here. Before I had these experiences with successful business people, I assumed there was always something different – something very calculated and methodical about them which distinguished them from average earners. But that is not always the case. I guess the characteristics you describe in your article are human characteristics and people on all levels of the socio-economic food chain.


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