You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know!

You don’t know what you don’t Know, why knowing is important to your business 

I think we have all heard the saying you don’t know what you don’t know. This is a very blanket statement and an excuse.  One that business owners use as a shield to forgive themselves for stupid mistakes that they make through ignorance on a particular subject. I would argue that being a business owner, or the manager of a department/business requires us to continually educate ourselves. I would even go as far as to say that not knowing something is the fault of the owners and their managers. We live in an age where information is readily available at our fingertips (Via our smart phones, computers and the almighty internet) and that not knowing something is not an excuse for ignorance.

In the early 2000’s  Donald Rumsfeld made a speech. In this speech he discussed the several ideas, but his primary point was how there are several ways to look at information.

Why knowledge is important in your Service Business
Here’s a link to good ole Donnie Rumsfeld’s speech here.

1. Known Knowns- This is information that you know that you know, and generally have some idea on how to utilize this information, and how it will affect your overall strategy.

2. Known Unknowns- This is the information that you know that you don’t know. For example maybe one of your competitors are a lot cheaper than you, (This is something you know.)  but don’t know how they can afford to stay in business. (This is something you don’t know)

3. Unknown Unknowns- This is the second most dangerous knowledge out there. This is when you don’t know, what you don’t know….. When you don’t know what you don’t know, you cannot even begin to formulate a strategy. A lot of times that is because you don’t even realize that this knowledge exists in the first place. Sometimes You don’t know enough to ask the right questions or identify the knowledge gaps. (By the way, a primary responsibility of an owner/manager is to constantly fill in these holes in your knowledge base.)

4. Unknown Knowns- This is the single most dangerous type of knowledge. Unknown Knowns are things that you don’t know but you think that you do know.  They have many names for this here are a couple of my favorites: Confirmation Bias, My gut, Instinct, and guessing.

The reasons that numbers 3 and 4 are so dangerous is that if you don’t know or can’t identify the direction that your business is going in, then you can’t make decisions or strategize on how to overcome those problems. Recently in my own life, I found myself in a situation where I had to hire a book printer to print one of my books and I found myself paying over $1200 to a local printer.  I later found that I could have had the same thing printed up through Amazon Publishing for a quarter of the price.  “Surely the quality must be better,” I thought to myself to justify it. So I examined the test prints from both and found that the quality was the same. Well, what about speed?  Amazon printed the books faster and delivered them within a couple of days. You know what I said to myself to justify the expense? (You guessed it.) “You don’t know what you don’t know.” It was an Unknown Unknown, but through my lack of diligence I wasn’t aware of the problem until it was too late, and I had already paid for the printing.  Imagine for a moment, I was making those decisions for my company and was printing something like 10,000 books. The cost difference would have been astronomical and could have hurt the bottom line of the company, but that is what happens when an Unknown Unknown rears its ugly head and slaps you in the face.

A description of how knowledge can affect business growth
Here is an explanation in the words of Donald Rumsfield himself

There is a lot to digest here. Most of you may be sitting around right now saying “ROB! How do I learn what I don’t know? I am so busy I have no time to read, I have no time to take classes, I have no time, no time! NO TIME!!!” My answer to that is this, anyone who is great at anything will make time to get better at it. Arnold Schwarzenegger worked a full-time carpentry job while working out 6 hours every day in the gym. While launching his political career Barack Obama scooped ice cream at Baskin Robbin’s.  Harrison Ford was a carpenter and a janitor when he finally caught the attention of George Lucas. I could go on and on with the list, but ultimately it is a decision that you and only you can make. Make your decision, it seems like a pretty easy decision for me. Decide to make time to grow your company, or suffer the consequences when an unknown unknown, or an unknown known slaps you in the face.

Be a Service Ninjas and don’t get slapped.