I Don't Know What I Don't Know


Recently, I've been dealing with a lot of people problems at an operational level. Any crisis, mistake or simple process inefficiency can be attributed to a lack of communication between individuals and teams. 

I've begun to run quick 5-minute activities to facilitate communications between people and teams. I call it a conversation about "I-Don't-Know-What-I-Don't-Know". The objective here is to make each party realise that they each have a piece of information that others may need but don't know about. In turn, others have information they need that they simply have to ask for in order to obtain. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Gather two to five parties (parties can be either individuals or teams). 
  2. Start by asking one party to declare what they know they know about. 
    • For example:
      • Sales team declares that last month Customer A ordered RM 10k worth of Product A.
  3. Then ask them to declare what they know they don't know about. 
    • For example:
      • If Customer A continues to order RM 10k a month, when will we run out of stock?
  4. Then you move on to the next party and ask the two same questions until everyone has declared what they know they know, and what they know they don't know. 
  5. After that, now ask the first team to point out to another team what they might not know they know about.
    • For example:
      • Can the procurement team tell us when stocks are estimated to run out? 
      • Can the sales team tell us when they will be approaching new customers? 
  6. And finally, where the magic happens. Each party attempts to answer each question to clear as many "I-Don't-Know-What-I-Don't-Knows".
Through these conversations, I learned that we often hold information that is valuable to others without being aware of it. By opening up more to one another, we all are able to minimise crises, mistakes and overall improve our processes.