Byron's Babbles

What We Know, And Don’t Quite Know We Know

Posted in Adaptive Leadership, Growth Mindset, Leadership, Uncategorized by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on May 16, 2019

IMG_5683I finished a great book by David Brooks this past week entitled The Second Mountain: The Quest For A Moral Life. He used a phrase in the book that really intrigued me: “What we know, and what we don’t quite know we know.” I’ve written about not knowing what we don’t know before, but this idea there being things we don’t quite know we know is intriguing to me. At first I related it to being curious, but I believe it had more to do with our learned knowledge and experiences that give us knowledge and perspective about things yet to be learned.

“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 — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” ~ Donald Rumsfeld, Former Secretary Of Defense

Case in point: this past week I was asked to research what we needed in terms of a website to market new professional development materials and services we have for schools to buy. At first I’m thinking, “I am so the wrong person for this!” I’m not a marketer, nor web development person. Then I started doing some research and got hooked up with a great resource at a web development company, who was happy to mentor me, fill in the gaps of my research, and help me develop the right questions to be asking back with the team.

What I found was, that while I did not have much (actually none) of the technical knowledge necessary for moving this project forward, I did have valuable user knowledge of what the website needed to be like. These were the things I didn’t know I knew, but by asking questions of the right people I was learning. I found I knew some vital things crucial to product success, such as:

  1. Making the website fast and easily navigated.
  2. Make it simple.
  3. Make the landing page in a way that hooks readers.
  4. Make it about solving problems.

Just understanding these things from my own experience using websites I was able to fill in the knowledge gap with the help of the website design gurus. No matter the scale, discovering your explanatory gaps is essential for innovation. An undiagnosed gap in knowledge means you might not fully understand a problem. That can hinder innovative solutions. To discover the things you can’t explain, take a lesson from teachers. When you instruct someone else, you have to fill the gaps in your own knowledge. A couple of tips would be to explain concepts to yourself as you learn them and engage others in collaborative learning.

Next time you take on something outside your current knowledge base, think about what you already know and what you don’t quite know you know. I’ll bet you know more than you think.

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  1. […] times we don’t know what we don’t know; we know more than we quite know we know; or know what we don’t know. Sometimes we need to pose the question: “What don’t […]

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