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Rumsfeld steps into the great ‘Known Unknown’

That’s a headline from the Ironic Times this week, referring to the great ‘known unknown’ of being sacked:

It’s a reference, of course, to his widely-lampooned musing a few years ago in answer to a journalist’s question, about what we know and don’t know. It went something like this:

The Unknown
“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.”

I think I know where he stole it from – Fernando Flores, the Chilean senator, philosopher, former transformational business consultant, father of a number of very important ideas in computing (action workflow and others) and former political prisoner under Pinochet.

If my guess is right, it’s a perfect example of how original thought from a first class mind can come across as rubbish when mis-applied by a Rumsfeld mind.

Here’s where I’m guessing some researcher at the Department of Defense found this original thought, passed it to his boss so he could maneouvre around the ‘terrorist information’ problem and had it translated into gobbledegook for his troubles:

“…The World According to Flores exists in three realms. The first is the smallest — and the most self-limiting: What You Know You Know. It is a self-contained world, in which people are unwilling to risk their identity in order to take on new challenges. A richer realm is What You Don’t Know — the realm of uncertainty, which manifests itself as anxiety or boredom…But it is the third realm of Flores’s taxonomy to which people should aspire: What You Don’t Know You Don’t Know. To live in this realm is to notice opportunities that have the power to reinvent your company, opportunities that we’re normally too blind to see. In this third realm, you see without bias: You’re not weighed down with information. The language of this realm is the language of truth, which requires trust. “

That’s from a 1998 article by Harriet Rubin in Fast Company magazine on Fernando Flores

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