The Known Unknowns

A Common Sense Approach to Doing Things

Epiphanies can happen any time and insights can come from anywhere. I was reading Fobbit, an excellent war satire by David Abrams and came across a passage on knowing and not knowing. More specifically, what lies between knowing and not knowing, and it led to a series of interesting observations that we can apply to work and life.

This is what lies between knowing and not knowing:

What We Know We Know

These are the indisputable facts. If you are facing a challenge, start by listing out what you definitely know at the outset. These are the constants and everything starts here.

What We Know We Don’t Know

These are clearly identified gaps in knowledge. List everything we are certain we need to know more about. This is where research begins. And ideally, the efforts of research should lead to more definite facts — so back to B from here.

What We Don’t Know We Know

This is the stuff epiphanies are made of. This is when the efforts we put in start to yield deeper insights, throwing light on obvious challenges and opportunities. This typically happens when we begin testing our model.

What We Don’t Know We Don’t Know

This is the area of darkness, and more maybe light, depending on how you see the glass. It manifests after you’ve taken your model to the real world and the test of time starts showing the cracks. It’s what you’ve not been able to anticipate when you started work, and now it’s forcing you to rethink, redesign, rework.

Putting It To Use

It’s common sense really. A + B + C leads to LAUNCH. When you have taken what you know, what you’ve researched and added epiphanies and insights to it, you are ready to roll. Implement your plan, process, product, life decision — your educated estimate — and see it yield results. It will, at least for now.

And at the same time, monitor responses and look out for red flags. As we know, the only constant in the world is change and time reduces everything to dust (double metaphors are fun), your model is going to start showing fault lines. That’s when you redesign, completing the circle of life.

Design Redesign. It’s good practice

This is the Known Unknown Common Sense Model, it’s a road map, a strategic tool, a brainstorming process or a life hack, depending on how you use it. Where do you think you might apply it? Looking forward to your responses. You can also follow me on twitter @tarundurga.