10/03/2014 01:50 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

We Don't Know What We Don't Know


I was in New York with a colleague, Gregory Hill. We were having several cups of coffee, discussing the importance of strong foundations in corporations.

Organizations go through change -- growth, market dynamics, Customer demands, stakeholder pressures. An organization's ability, and readiness, to face that change, and to create real sustainability is paramount. All too often, the unknown plays a crucial factor. So, preparing for that with organizational resilience is important. It is about the teams we put together, It is about the skills and experience we have at our disposal. It is about the culture we create.

One element of that culture is a company's constant ability and desire to gain fresh perspective on existing dynamics as well as to anticipate and seek out new perspectives and viewpoints.

And that starts at the top.

At this point, my friend Gregory pulled out a napkin and drew a simple diagram. He drew a circle and he drew in a slice of a makeshift pie. "This slice represents what we know."

He drew another slice. "This slice represents the stuff we know we don't know."

The biggest piece of the pie, remained unclaimed. "This big piece of the pie, represents We don't know that we don't know."

We can argue all day long how large that last piece of the pie is, but one thing we can all agree on - it is big. When leaders recognize this, they start to build a culture that welcomes input, fresh perspective and diversity; they build organizations that are open to input - organizations based on trust and transparency.

And they invite players to the table. They invite other parts of the organization. They invite customers. They invite suppliers. They invite stakeholders.

They bring in mentors, advisors, advisory boards.

Because they don't know what they don't know.

And they manage accordingly.