Should you be worried about unknown unknowns in your industry?

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“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

 

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 getting 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. We often prioritise operational tasks, because we know they need to be done. We are also aware of the many things we don’t do; stuff that never gets ticked off the list, or never even makes the list. We know we probably should do these things, but it is hard to find the resources and we never get around to it. What we might not think about, is the different ways, other businesses, might go about driving business growth. Applying new systems and using resources in new ways.

Chances are, as technology changes the way business is done, that 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.

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 the dangers posed by terrorism, they explained the depth of a very real threat.

The simple point of this narrative, is the real threat we face in our business, if we 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.

The good news is, if you stay curious; if you can take time to look around and prioritise the importance of working on the business, instead of working in the business, you might find there are new tools and resources that, when applied with your knowledge and experience, enable you to exact your own share of disruption on the competition and perhaps the industry.

Along the way you might also remove huge chunks, from “the things you don’t know, you don’t know.”

Images source: abcnews.go.com

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