How to Identify and Close Your Knowledge Gaps

We made a mind map outlining all of our knowledge areas and their respective levels of expertise in step 1 of my 8-step thought leadership strategy.

Step 2 utilizes this mind map to identify your knowledge gaps keeping you from achieving true subject matter expertise, which is the prerequisite for becoming a thought leader.

First we will cover how to identify your knowledge gaps, and then we will go over a plan for establishing a learning routine to close those gaps.

How to Identify Your Knowledge Gaps

Let’s recap how your completed subject matter expertise mind map should look.

The first layer should be the broad topic areas where you have at least a little bit of knowledge.

The second layer lists the subtopics for each broad topic to flesh out all of the areas of knowledge that fall under each umbrella.

Layer three goes into the knowledge components that flesh out each subtopic.

The fourth and final layer outlines all of your proofs of competences for each knowledge component.

Below is an abridged version of what the four layers should look like:

The proof of competency layer is where you get a real look of which areas of knowledge you have the most expertise and where you fall on the spectrum of expertise.

The methodology is simple.

The area where you felt like you didn’t have to think at all as you listed high-level work-based competencies is your highest level of subject matter expertise.

This will in virtually all cases be the sub topic that has the most total proofs of competency, but you also have to take the quality of the results you have delivered, as well the rigor of any educational proofs.

The other subtopics within the broad topic that hosts your current highest area of expertise are your knowledge gaps.

These are the areas you can improve your competency and have the most impact towards your goal of becoming a thought leader.

Building a Learning Plan

It is one of the great paradoxes of the information age that so many of us fail to take advantage of the near-infinite access to information at our fingertips.

We could all be experts in something if we had a clear path towards what we needed to learn to get there, and then committed the time necessary to make it happen.

A learning plan is what curriculum planners use to build objectives and direction into the structure of their classes.

You can create a modified version of a learning plan to guide your independent learning.

Set a S.M.A.R.T. Learning Objective

You are probably familiar with this popular goal-setting framework, but for those that aren’t, this acronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

I will set a learning objective for myself to show this framework in action within the context of independent learning.

Get specific by defining exactly which subtopic, and the components within that subtopic, you will be learning about.

I look at my completed version of the mind map I showed above and see that within the subtopic of content marketing, I need to work towards a higher level of expertise in audience research, email outreach, and content distribution.

My specific goal is that I want to consume 50 pieces of thought leadership content on each of those topics from highly-renowned subject matter experts. So 150 pieces of content in total.

I can make this timely and measurable by adding a date to accomplish this goal by. So let’s say 180 days. 

150 pieces of content in 180 days is 1 per day with 30 off days. This will take about 1-2 hours per day, which is an achievable amount of time for me.

Finally, this goal is relevant because this acquisition of knowledge is tied to my objective of becoming a thought leader in the area of thought leadership.

Once you have a SMART learning objective, all that is left is execution.

One tip for making self-learning a habit is to understand what type of learner you are.

It’s easy. Do you retain information best if you read an article? How about listen to a podcast, consume an infographic, or watch a webinar?

Another tip is to understand your body’s unique rhythm. Some people have a better “learning” brain in the mornings, while it is the night for others.

The final tip is to bake learning into your content consumption routine. Just focus on subtracting 1 hour from your entertainment content time and make it educational content time.

We will do a deeper dive on thought leadership in the next article. which is on defining your target audience.