There are four categories of information you need to pay attention to when embarking on any significant endeavor:
- Things you know and know that you know.
- Things you know but don’t know that you know.
- Things you don’t know and know that you don’t know.
- Things you don’t know and don’t know that you don’t know.
Category four is what can be the real curve ball. The early space program is often given as an example of this: before we went into space, there were certain things we knew and could plan for (radiation, re-entry, etc.). But what were the things that we didn’t know that we wouldn’t even know were factors until encountering them? That was the challenge.
Which is why experimentation and trying things, sometimes in small steps, is so crucial. Since you can’t discover the things you don’t know that you don’t know any other way than by experience, taking action and embarking on paths of experimentation are essential to learning, for individuals and organizations.
This means that, to a certain extent, we need to be willing to tolerate risk and we need to be willing to tolerate failure.