Brij Singh's Blog

March 30, 2008

Art of managing unk unk

Filed under: Tech — Brij @ 6:36 pm

I became Rumsfeld fan for the way he used words, guy was genius on the microphone. This press briefing statement was widely circulated for his use of "unknown unknowns" –

Reports that say that something hasn't happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, 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   (Wikipedia)

Last two days I saw two excellent posts on how to say "i don't know" and how to hedge your bets amidst uncertain events. Read both of them. Like politics, internet services business is also fast becoming event driven game.  In politics, most of the players just wait for events to react to and how to position  events to their advantages. Look at all major events of recent time. 9-11 shaping foreign policy, oil price shaping energy movement, credit crisis generating demand for regulation etc etc. They were largely unknown unknowns. Taleb's black swans.

There were chain of unexpected events in technology space as well. Facebook developer platform, iPhone, Google's Android, Amazon on-demand infrastructure are some of those events which forced entrepreneurs and VCs to revisit their assumptions.

Going forward humility and credibility of all participants hinges on their ability to account for unk unk. And there will be many of those in this year, next year and year after that.

To go hung ho on a set of slides which project 3 year plan is plain wishful thinking. We must learn to gracefully handle questions related to known unknowns and off course unk unks.

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