The known, knowable, and the unknown

When I was in business school, my strategy professor Jeanne Liedtka introduced a framework for strategic thinking that I use quite often, based on Fitch’s paradox of knowability:  any issue can be broken into three distinct parts:  the known, knowable, and unknown.

This may seem like a simple framework, so let’s apply it to something you understand pretty well, like your company.

There are things that are known.  But knowledge can be difficult to distribute.  In theory, markets are transparent; in practice, today it’s nearly impossible to tap into the collective intellect of an organization’s ecosystem (i.e. employees, suppliers, customers).  It takes good tools to capitalize on the known.

There are things that are knowable.  Research can help convert these into the known.  Building bridges and opening communication conduits can help unclog knowledge arteries and spur information flow as well.  It takes the right process and culture to be successful.

And there are things that are unknowable.  Time is often the only solution here.  But as Pasteur said, "chance favors the prepared mind."  Having the right strategy and structure in place will ensure your company is ready to embrace and act on whatever outcomes emerge from the passage of time and introduction of new market data.

So maybe not so simple after all.  You can apply this to social technology adoption, evaluating a job opportunity, or trading for Manny Ramirez.  Decisions are rarely black and white, but using a good filter will help you eliminate as much grey as possible.

Being: Peter Kim