“There are known knowns.” This is the response US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave to a question during a discussion on Iraq at a press briefing in 2002. His reference prompted immediate study of the UNK chart. -UNK, derived from consideration of the many variations of unknown and known pieces of information. The chart is useful for military planning and for business risk analysis. However, the UNK-UNK chart can also be helpful in identifying and understanding what you know and don’t know about yourself.
known unknown matrix
The known unknown matrix is divided into four quadrants. The quadrants use the terms “known” and “unknown”, referring to a general understanding of information known to you (“known”) and information not known (“unknown”). As you place these two terms on both sides of the chart and walk through the analysis, an approach to reducing your “unknowns” begins to unfold.
Known Known (KK)
Starting with the upper left quadrant – Known Known (KK) or information you know you know, is a very valuable commodity. In this quadrant, the organization is “self-aware”, and this knowledge can be exploited. As a military example, if you know you know the location of the enemy, you can plan and move into contact to destroy the enemy in that location. Similarly, in business, a company would want to try to exploit its capabilities in the market if it knew it had a competitive advantage. From a personal perspective, your skills, characteristics, abilities, and sense of the type of market you want to pursue are very valuable. Recognize and leverage this information on your resume and during your interviews to achieve the best career alignment.
Known unknowns (KU)
The upper right quadrant – Known Unknowns (KU), or knowing what you don’t know, refers to an organization that understands that it lacks certain pieces of information necessary for success. Capturing these pieces of information provides tremendous value for improvement within the organization. For example, if a company does not have market information, it strives to solve the problem in order to increase its competitive advantage. From a personal point of view, knowing that you have no ability is vitally important. During an interview, not knowing the hiring manager’s expectations and how the organization perceives value can halt the interview process. If you know you are missing information, take the time to reduce your competitive risk. The KU elements become your goals. Completing these associated goals turns KUs into KKs, increasing your competitive advantage.
Unknown Known (UK)
UK is the lower left quadrant (stuff you don’t know, you know) which is very harmful in combat. When critical information is not shared, it can lead to mission failure. A company may know it has a capability, but fail to see its value and its competitor comes to market faster. During your personal transition, apply this quadrant to ensure that you have discovered all of your abilities, even those that you may not think are significantly marketable. During interviews, take the time to share your accomplishments, certifications, and experiences related to the company.
Unknowns Unknowns (UU)
Finally, the lower right quadrant UU (information you don’t know you don’t know) is about reaction. “Ignorance is bliss” is a common cliché associated with this quadrant. When actions happen quickly, you can lose out if you don’t have the information to counter the action. This is the most risky quadrant because there are unexpected results, due to lack of knowledge.
What’s the point?
Why go through this analysis using the UNK-UNK chart? Your objective is to reduce the size of the unknowns and the associated risks. As shown in the figure below, reducing your level of “unexpected unknowns” and turning them into “knowns” is the best method to increase your personal edge and confidence. There will always be “unknown” gaps, but it’s essential to narrow the “unknown” quadrant as much as possible by expanding other quadrants, expanding your “known” area as much as possible. For this to happen, think about your undiscovered skills and characteristics. Use the insights gained from the UNK-UNK chart to determine what you can leverage and where you need to improve.
Learn more about change and transition in The army in transition Project Manager and other books from The military series in transition on Gr8Transitions4U.com.