Knowns and Unknowns

June 12, 2012

in Manage Risk

There are things we know and there are things we don’t know:

  • Known Knowns – there are things we know and we know that we know them
  • Known Unknowns – there are things that we don’t know and we know that we don’t know them
  • Unknown Knowns – there are things that we know and we don’t know that we know them
  • Unknown Unknowns – there are things that we don’t know and we don’t know that we don’t know them

KNOWN KNOWNS
This is normal knowledge that we are aware of and can track the status of. We may know where we accumulated this knowledge and we may or may not know the limits of the knowledge.

KNOWN UNKNOWNS
These are missing pieces of knowledge that we are aware are missing. We know there is some knowledge in a particular subject area, but we don’t know the specifics of it. We may or may not be able to define the limits of the knowledge and we may know where to access the knowledge.

UNKNOWN KNOWNS
These are things we know, but we are not aware that we know them. We may have accumulated the knowledge but have lost the ability to access it, or we may have created some knowledge through cross referencing or calculation that we did not realize at the time. We may be aware of sources for this knowledge and we may be able to define limits for this knowledge, but without an awareness that the knowledge exists, those elements may not be useful.

UNKNOWN UNKNOWNS
This is the state when we don’t know something and we are not aware that we are missing this knowledge. Since we have no idea that this knowledge exists, we cannot know any sources related to it and we cannot define any limits related to it.

SUMMATION
Known knowns is the area of normal operational knowledge that we use all the time. Known unknowns is an area that we focus on in risk management and contingency and survival planning. Unknown unknowns is by definition, an area of knowledge darkness, but we can attempt to define limits of our known knowledge and probe beyond those limits to discover new territory. Unknown knows may be the most interesting of the four quadrants. Things we know but are not aware that we know them offer a rich area for knowledge mining and serendipity.

SERENDIPITY
Serendipity is when we stumble across unexpected positive events or gains. The area of unknown knowns provides a rich and efficient target area for finding unexpected gains because it is relatively easy to access in most cases. We have already done the hard lifting of most of the discovery or invention and just need to finish off the process with realization or the epiphany of cognition or a locked in method of access in order to make the knowledge useful.

FOR MORE SEE:
Assess Risk
Negative Events vs Positive Events

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