Should you be worried about unknown unknowns in your industry?
Should you be worried about the unknown unknowns in your industry?
by Rob Keogh | 5 April 2017
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.” Donald Rumsfeld
The press gallery laughed when Rumsfeld said, those words that have now stuck as a quote, used to parody his style and legacy. On first hearing the words, they sound confounding, but in the context of his topic, the dangers posed by terrorism, the unknown unknowns explained the depth of a very real threat.
I have heard many people say, “If I had known what it was really going to take to succeed when I got into this business, I never would have started.” Foolish or not, we dive into a business, and an industry, with a certain amount of knowledge. The truth is, we are mostly not even aware of how much we don’t know, about what we are about to get into.
Once we survive and find a model that starts to make money, there is a massive temptation to hang onto that model, like a lifeline. “Let’s not move the furniture around too much, or try new stuff. It nearly killed me, getting this going the first time.”
So, we do the things we do every day. Staff turn up, sit at their desk and start their day – like they have always done. But is there are real risk in the unknown unknowns? The things we don't know, we don't know.
What we might not think about, is the different ways, other businesses, might go about developing or driving their business. This is especially important today as AI (artificial intelligence) machine learning and automation are changing the face of how business gets done.
Chances are, there is perhaps someone today, about to step into your industry, or possibly your patch, that knows an awful lot of stuff that will impact your market, that you don’t even know, you don’t know.
Digital transition might be something we would prefer to think of a one of the “dark arts”. The real risk is if we don’t consider what we don’t know, then some young wizard is finding new ways to deliver consistent quality and performance without needing to go through those (clunky) safeguards and processes that have been carefully developed over time.
The simple point of this narrative, is the real threat we face in our business, is to become married to certain models, become complacent or too comfortable. Seeking comfort after all is human nature. However, disruption is the face of emerging commerce today. What is being disrupted is comfortable, established business models. We change our phones every couple of years to keep up. We also need to look at our business framework.
The good news is, if you stay curious; if you can take time to look around from time to time, you might find there are new tools resources and frameworks that, when applied with your knowledge and experience, enable you to exact your own share of disruption on the competition, or more importantly, the bottom line.
Along the way you might also remove huge chunks, from “the things you don’t know, you don’t know."