Do something about it!

“We don’t know what we don’t know.” I first heard someone make that statement in a business context while I was working at a very large financial institution. I don’t know if US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld coined the phrase but he certainly gave it notoriety when he used that phrase as a part of his response to a question during a 2002 press briefing.

Ever since I first heard that statement being made while working at that financial institution, it always seemed to me to be used as an excuse. I noticed that people tended to use that statement when they didn’t want to commit, or when they wanted to be lazy. They would make that statement as though it was some great, enlightening bit of wisdom that we, the hearers, were lucky to be within earshot when it was made. I don’t think it was coincidental that the workplace where I first heard the phrase uttered was one of the most dysfunctional workplaces I have ever been familiar.

We don’t know what we don’t know.


The next time you hear someone say, “Well, you know, we don’t know what we don’t know,” you say, “Why don’t we find out?”

The statement is usually made when there is some customer-touching issue that is under consideration. Whether it is something connected with a customer-touching product or service, why don’t we just find out? How do we do that?

A huge step in providing clarity to the situation would be for you to walk in the shoes of your customers and/or end-users.

Find out what it is like to be in their position, to understand the challenges they face. Seek to understand what makes them happy.

Ask them, “What can we do better?” Make the changes and then ask them again.

It seems rather simple, doesn’t it? Apparently it isn’t because so few businesses do it.

Make it your aim to become more customer-focused. If you do, you will find out what it is you don’t know. Once you find out, address it. If you do that simple thing, you will be regarded as being innovative.

It will set you apart.

So instead of making excuses and known for being out of touch with your customers, do something about it.