What Do We Know? What Can Happen? What Don’t We Know?

Weekly Winning Strategies

“Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know. And if one looks throughout the history of our country and other free countries, it is the latter category that tends to be the difficult ones.”

Donald Rumsfeld

This week’s weekly winning strategy is based on these three key questions — What do we know? What can happen? And What don’t we know?

It was a source of amusement when Rumsfeld first aired the above thoughts. He said this a year before America had gone into Iraq in search of Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction in 2003.

It was mostly based on flawed intelligence from MI6 and, it has to be said, the desire to find the answer Tony Blair wanted to hear. Read more: Weapons of mass destruction.

Over the years, historians and intelligence analysts have come to recognise the logic in Rumsfeld’s words. If you could at least identify the facts you needed to know, that was halfway to containing and solving a problem.

So, back to the world of competitor and market analysis. Four questions based on the quote guide our strategic thinking, insights, and decision-making. This is particularly important during times of real uncertainty, during a crisis, and when clear thinking is needed.

1. What Do We Know?

This question addresses the current landscape. Gather all available data on competitors, market trends, customer behaviours, and industry standards.

Understand the known variables and use your existing intelligence to map out the market terrain. So, scrutinise every piece of data, from sales figures to customer feedback, to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the market’s current state.

All through detailed competitive intelligence reports, market share analyses, and consumer trend surveys. And guess what? It’s the stuff you know because you researched your competitors and market before pressing the emergency button.

2. What Can Happen?

Here, we delve into the realm of possibilities. This could involve looking at scenario planning. Or forecasting potential market shifts, competitor moves, and emerging trends. It’s about anticipating future developments.

Preparing for various outcomes, ensuring we are agile and resilient. We must consider multiple scenarios. Best case, worst case, and most likely case. Then, develop strategies to address each.

Advanced analytics, predictive modelling, and trend analysis are crucial here. Enabling us to foresee changes and adapt. Allowing us to seize opportunities and mitigate risks effectively.

3. And What Don’t We Know?

Acknowledging the gaps in our knowledge is crucial. This question pushes us to identify areas of uncertainty and unknown variables that could impact us. It’s about recognising the limitations of our current data. Being proactive in seeking out new information.

And conducting further research and remaining open to unexpected changes. We must adopt a mindset of continuous learning and exploration. Market research, focus groups, and competitive intelligence help uncover hidden insights.

Talking to people who may know the answer. Nurture a culture that encourages questioning and critical thinking. So, we remain vigilant and ready to pivot when new information emerges.

4. What Are The Unknown Unknowns?

This question dives into the most challenging aspect of analysis: identifying and preparing for unexpected factors we aren’t even aware of.

To navigate this uncertainty, we must foster a culture of innovation and adaptability, invest in competitive intelligence, and maintain a flexible strategy that responds to unforeseen changes.

So, what do you do when faced with many unanswered questions and loose ends? Remind your team that there are known knowns.

The things we know that we know. And there were known unknowns. In other words, things we knew that we didn’t know.

Then, even more confusingly, discuss the unknown unknowns. The things we didn’t know that we didn’t know.

What Do We Know? What Can Happen And What Don’t We Know?

We maintain a dynamic and informed approach to market analysis by continuously asking these questions and positioning ourselves to navigate the competitive landscape with confidence and foresight.

This iterative process ensures that our strategies remain relevant, robust, and responsive to the ever-evolving markets.

We can carve out a sustainable competitive advantage through meticulous data collection, forward-thinking scenario planning, and a relentless quest for knowledge.

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