Yesterday’s post mentioned unknown unknowns. When I heard this matrix, it pained me that one of the quadrants was missing. Over the years, I have thought about that missing one and what it might mean.
Donald Rumsfeld in 2002 talking about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq a year before the invasion:
Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know.
We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns â€“ the ones we don’t know we don’t know.
And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tend to be the difficult ones.
What is interesting about this matrix is the lack of an “unknown known.” This we know, but we do not know that we know them.
- Known knowns = are evaluatedÂ risks. There is confidence in they can be handled.
- Known unknowns = are poorly evaluated risks. There is no confidence in handling them.
- Unknown unknowns = are unevaluated risks.
Unknown knowns, I think, are evaluated risks which are ignored. They are our blindspots. The knowledge is there, but not used. Either we disagree with the assessment. Or we think they are too trivial to matter. Or we lie to ourselves about it. In any case they are left out of the calculus or justification of a decision. Possibly a high level administrator never sees them in making the decision.
Too much informationÂ overwhelms making a decision. Too little information risks a bad decision. What informationÂ is the right informationÂ is itself a decision. 🙂
Data > Information > Knowledge > Wisdom (ITIL)