I was reading an article in Project Manager Today magazine (more interesting than it might sound) about 'Unknown Unknowns and Risk' and it made reference to Donald Rumsfeld's infamous comment about "we know there are some things we do not know". Actually, he was making sense in a garbled sort of way as he referred to a well-known model of knowledge vs. awareness - an example of which is the Johari Window.
In the article, this matrix is adapted to explain the relationship between knowledge and risk, where not knowing what you don't know implicitly represents an unquantifiable risk. Interesting enough surely, but it got me to thinking about the nature of Business Intelligence, Analytics and decision-making in changing environments.
Many organisations think they know what they know - they make decisions in the certainty that they are acting on valid assumptions and to exploit their core strengths (I have however come across many examples where this 'certainty' was a lot less certain than assumed).
Research-led organisations know what they don't know and explore the implications of their ignorance, but do so towards a specific objective (they want to change unknown to known).
Amnesiac organisations are not realising perhaps one of their greatest untapped assets -
the volumes of data and information that they generate doing business, but which simply gets filed and never looked at again. Using a proactive approach, they could (re-)discover what they already knew and exploit it (the multiplier return on the investment to do this is often many-fold).
Finally, they say that 'ignorance is bliss' - I for one don't agree (I hate surprises). That said, it's a perfect environment for experimentation
without preconception - even if the results are going to be unpredictable.
Whatever quadrant you find yourself in, one thing remains true - awareness (and exploitation) of what you know (or don't know) is the least risky place to be - just ask anyone associated with the sub-prime lending market right now.