Friday, February 26, 2010

Unknown Unknowns

Currently I am working with 2 clients that are facing some very large decisions. The details surrounding the decisions are not relevant; however, the decisions themselves are very relevant.

Sound like double talk?

Not really.

What I mean is… that the result of the decisions are not relevant…but the decision making process is very relevant. I have often related to my children that neither I nor they will always make the right decision, but we should always make decisions right. (For the record, I, myself did make a wrong decision back in the 8th grade. I don’t remember what it was, but I do remember that it resulted in a trip to the principal’s office and contact with the “board of education”.)

These two clients are approaching the decisions in radically different ways and with radically different levels of stress. Remember, the result of these choices will follow the businesses for years to come.

Client number 1 is fretting about making the wrong choice. Yet he is not doing much else. He paces and thinks, paces and thinks. What if I make the wrong decision? He is feeling lots of stress.

Client number 2 has made several very important lists. He has listed the known knowns. (What he knows to be true.) He has listed the known unknowns. (The things he knows he does not know…and maybe can only find out by making the decision.) But the list he does not know how to compile is the one of the unknown unknowns. (He simply does not know what he does not know.)

This client, then, began asking questions. Good questions. When do I have to make the decision or when is the opportune time? Have I gathered enough information to make a well informed choice? Have I consulted my trusted advisors? Do I know anyone else that has been in a situation similar to this? He is trying to find out information that he does not even know that he doesn’t know. He is on a mission and is energized by the process.

Who do you think is more likely to make a right decision? Who do you think is making the decision right? Easy choice here, correct? Client number 2 of course.

When he gets to the point that the timing is right and he has gathered good information he will simply “plant the flag” and move forward in a confident manner. Will his decisions always be right…I doubt it… but his batting average sure will be better than client number 1 and his stress level will be much more manageable.

Do you have any unknown unknowns? It is difficult to answer that. How would you know?