Former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld answered a question at a media conference in 2002 with the tortuous statement:
‘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.’
While his remark was ridiculed by some at the time, the point is valid that as leaders we need to be mindful of risks and uncertainties that fall outside of our daily frame of reference. System-wide risks can change in status and impact on you.
For example, one of the ‘known’ risks is that organisations that don’t innovate can easily decline or revert to mediocrity. They can soon tumble from the iconic to the irrelevant.
For a business, the market will deal with mediocrity soon enough. However, mediocrity can exist far longer than it should with institutions and especially in some industry organisations. For example, we can keep acting as if a peak body speaks with authority, even when many are aware it is no longer representative or relevant.
Everyone knows that they must consult with that peak body and accommodate its views. But it’s now unknown if their priorities and interests reflect those of the whole industry or just those of an organised minority?
Stepping back from the trees to see the forest provides a fresh perspective.
You might just see that while some previously important organisations are reverting to mediocrity, innovative organisations and institutions are finding ways to flourish. Even in the midst of the unknown unknowns.
A big thank you to all those who reached out to me about the new accelerated coaching program and shared it with their networks. It is for leaders and managers who want to take their skills, career, team or organisation to the next level and are challenged by how to:
– Perform on a reducing budget;
– Navigate complex issues and competing interests;
– Adapt and implement faster; and
– Get results faster.
I still have a couple of places available at a discounted rate before EOFY. For more information click here.