top of page

How What You Don’t Know Could Hurt You

What is it you don’t know that you don’t know that could be hurting you, right this very moment?

Is it possible something is at play . . . something you’re utterly unaware of that could be sabotaging your progress or interfering with your ability to be at your best?

The very nature of such questions can be troubling if we really explore them and yet, if we stop for a moment, it’s easy to recognize that knowledge falls into three basic categories:

  1. Things we know we know;

  2. Things we know we don’t know; and

  3. Things we don’t know that we don’t know

It’s that last category that can be the most perplexing. But let’s use a simple example to delve more fully into what we mean.

For instance, did you know that there are three different Internets (or levels of the overall Internet) and yet the vast majority of us only use one them?

There’s the Visible or Surface Web—the one utilized by most people. It’s the Internet that’s searchable via Google, Bing, and other search engines; the one where most public websites reside.

Then, there’s the Invisible or Deep Web which generally consists of web pages that are not indexed by the major search engines. This deep, or hidden web hosts a wealth of information, especially in medical and scientific research topics.

The Deep Web is a powerful resource and can provide a wealth of content not ordinarily found through normal search engines.

(To learn more about the Deep or Invisible Web, check out this great resource provided by HubSpot:

Last of all there’s the Dark Web. It’s very name sounds eerie . . . and in a way it is. The dark web consists of web pages and other content that are intentionally hidden and which, unfortunately, are also a popular nesting ground for criminal and illegal activity.

As it is with the web, when it comes to identifying, accessing, and optimizing resources, most of us only play in the realm of what’s visible. While there may be plenty of resources to access in our immediate realm, a variety of powerful resources may also exist just off the screen of our own mental radar.

While not knowing about these seemingly hidden resources may not always cause us direct harm, our limited view could prevent us from optimizing a project, process, or opportunity. We may end up relying on the same people over and over again . . . increasing the likelihood of “group-think”, rather than broadening our resource base while also more fully engaging a broader range of talent.

But let's get back to our own internal radar because it provides a wonderful analogy.

Remember how radar works? An invisible signal is transmitted which bounces off unseen objects and returns, lighting up the screen. When we ask for help or reach beyond the scope of our familiar resources, we generate something like that beam. It heads out into our environment and returns. If we’ve spoken our need, those we have asked may step forward to assist or they might refer us to someone else or connect us to a previously unknown resource.

As we explore in our book Thriving in Business and Life and our online leadership course, if we’ve internalized our “ask,” just acknowledging to ourselves that we do need help, this is also powerful in its own right. What comes back might show up as intuition, a hunch, a realization, an idea, or an expanded awareness of resources that have now suddenly become visible to us. But if we don’t ask, we will tend to get what we asked for. Nothing!

In fact, the resources we need are almost always available on some level, but as long as they are not on our mental screen, we don’t see them and, as a result, we can’t access them.

Someone told us about an entrepreneur who was sharing his very ambitious vision with employees, including the construction of several large facilities. Someone spoke up who was concerned about the cost.

“That’s going to cost a fortune. Where’s the money going to come from to pay for all that?” they asked.

Without hesitation, the entrepreneur replied, “From wherever it is right now.”

He understood that until you ask, you can’t uncover what you need. Sometimes, just facing a problem and admitting we’re stumped can open up an avenue of perception that leads to an unlikely solution.

For instance, in our book, I (Chris) tell the story about a European client whose company was faced with a serious challenge regarding their company’s expanding delivery routes. As the team struggled with this complex problem, one of the schedulers suddenly shouted: "Ants!"

He explained that his friend was an entomologist, a PhD who specialized in ants. He'd learned from him that ants create and run amazing distribution networks. He posed an intriguing possibility: "Perhaps this ant expert could take a look at our system and see how to improve it, using some of the methods that ants employ."

Initially, his colleagues just laughed at him. But he persisted and they finally listened. They collaborated to develop a computer–run, GPS–based system, fed with live streaming data from every driver's vehicle. This enabled them to observe traffic patterns and determine where and when traffic jams occurred. They could also study what alternative routes had been used successfully in the past.

Their new system updated itself regularly and even suggested schedules based on historical data. The system enabled spontaneous rerouting to take place as new information arrived from drivers out on the road. Once the system was fully ramped up, tested, and refined, it became a huge success.

Ants! Who would have thought of ants? Who could have made that correlation? He did, and he got them to listen. What does this demonstrate? That help often comes from unexpected directions. We just need to admit we need help and ask. Unlikely solutions may arise and hidden resources suddenly appear, all because we ventured outside of our certainty zone and dared explore with an open mind.

So what’s analogous to the Dark Web in or normal day-to-day life? It could be the unconscious biases that we allow to limit our thinking or prevent us from tapping into the right resources. It might be something as simple as our own unwillingness to reach beyond our comfort zone.

While there are many things we don’t know that we don’t know, there will always be someone who can provide us with the vital knowledge, connection, or other resources we need . . . if we are willing to reach out, ask, and search beyond the realm of the familiar .

Here’s your Thriving challenge for the week:

Where do you need help? Consider your situation and acknowledge to yourself that you do indeed need resources currently unknown.

Voice a request for assistance, internally, and list who in your immediate circle you might ask.

Then make a second list, using your intuition, of unlikely candidates

who you sense might be able to assist you.

Get the word out and see what happens!

Will Wilkinson and Christopher Harding

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Search By Tags
Follow Us
bottom of page