Do you know what you don’t know?

When working with another executive inside or outside your organization, where do they fall on the Knowledge Matrix? The answer to this question will quickly guide you on how to work with them on a go forward basis.knowledge matrix


Quadrant 1 – Know what they know


Quadrant 2 – Know what they don’t know


Quadrant 3 – Don’t know what they know


Quadrant 4– Don’t know what they don’t know {most dangerous}


Of all the types of individuals above the Quadrant 4 executive is the most dangerous as they do not know what they do not know. Why? This individual lacks the emotional intelligence to admit what they do not know and as a result they make bad decisions over and over again. A sign of this type of leadership is a negative trending EBITDA .

As opposed to asking for help or seeking additional research, they guess, they assume, and they make key decisions based on their “gut”. The information they use for key decisions is often dated, and or skewed by an ego that outweighs their desire to win and time in the market many years prior.

For example, how many executives do you know that make decisions based on market research? In a recent survey, marketers admitted that 70% of the decisions are made for new products and or decisions for existing products without market data. Therefore, it should not surprise anyone the high frequency of new business failures and that 2/3 of new products are removed from the market within 18 months.

Far too many executives in leadership roles are “winging it” today when it comes to making decisions to drive their business. I promise you your market , your buyers and the buyer’s process for purchasing have changed over the past six months. We must get back to basics and make decisions with hard data as our budgets lack the wiggle room for poor decision making.


What Quadrant do you find most of your buyers in today?

Plot your leadership team, in what Quadrant do most of your organization’s leaders fall?

Where do you fall?

How can we insure we too do not become the executive in a leadership role who doesn’t know what they don’t know?

This Post Has 12 Comments
  1. Mark, congratulations on the blog and on a compelling post. You raise some provocative issues.

    I absolutely agree with your premise, although I would not take away the value of “gut” when faced with a high degree of ambiguity.

    Unfortunately, “hard data” is always not fully baked. As a former executive in the business intelligence space, I can assure you that there are remarkably powerful systems for analytics and decision-making populated with lousy data that point to erroneous conclusions. I also don’t know that this is a “today” problem or a longstanding human issue. There are also human biases..the opinions of advisors and even customer biases that can lead you down the wrong path. Henry Ford was famous for his, “If I asked customers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

    Effective decision-making looks as you suggest at the hard data; questions the integrity of the data; seeks to understand the real meaning behind customer opinions, and then in my opinion, takes in the “gut” factor.

    The bottom-line, and I believe the point in support of your perspective is that decisions must be made carefully with the best available data. My corollary is that they also must be made quickly or you risk paralyzing your organization.

    I look forward to many great new posts!


  2. Thanks Art,

    I am a big fan of your leadership blog.

    I am not saying ask customers what they want, but to gain knowledge of unresolved problems in markets, there is a big difference.

    In today’s economy in particular decisions must be made quickly, with the most market data as possible. However what I am seeing is only about 10% of the entrepreneurs are spending time getting to know the needs of their market on a continuous basis. The net result is they are executing dated strategies and solutions with messaging that not only is dated, but actually creates an interruption in the buyers mind.

    “Why would I partner with this company when they obviously do not understand my needs?”

    With the power of social media, and the rising frequency of the use of search engines to help me find solutions to my problems, we must all be continuously alert to the needs and problems in our market.

    Once we understand them we must describe our products and services in the voice of how we solve those problems, (not features and benefits)…or the buyers will find someone who does.

  3. Mark:

    Without doing the appropriate research :), I could safely say that most small businesses have a product to sell, salespeople to sell it, and no intention of finding out what their customer actually want.
    It is no different to execs in high power positions, unfortunately:
    Limitations of time, budget and ignorance lead to quick and mostly wrong decisions.

    I’d like to refer to your comment about “gut”:
    The “Gut” feel is underestimated. In his book Blink, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the power of the “gut” feel, and snap decision making process.
    We can make decisions based on our gut, and get pretty good results, as the “gut” is the accumulation of the information we have collected over lifelong learning and experience. Subconsciously, we have enough information to make some decisions.
    It might put me in the 3rd quadrant, but at the end of the day, the result will count, not the method to get there.

    We don’t always have to have piles of raw and/or analyzed data. Sometime the amount of data we gather can be overwhelming, and we can drown in it.
    More over, the web can give us a lot of unverified data as well, and our conclusions can be based on inaccurate data.

    There is no right or wrong answer here. different people can use different methods. No method is fool proof, and some mistake are likely to happen.
    My dad always told me, that if you don’t do – you’ll never make a mistake.
    I think he was wrong – if you don’t do – it is already a mistake.

    As Nike keeps telling us – Just Do It!

  4. Mark – I can rightfully claim to be a Database Expert. The biggest mistake I find with businesses is not that they fail to use the data, but that the data itself is not correct. I find all the time different execs from the same company using spreadsheets from different sources as the raw data for their analysis. When the fact is that data should come from one data source and that source needs to be set up properly using data modeling to enforce data entry rules for those businesses specific needs. There are correct methodologies that have been out for 20 years to help businesses set up their MAIN ASSET = THEIR DATA, correctly the first time. But either no one understands how to follow and implement these methodologies or they are just so eager to get up and running that they put no value on following the process through. From my 20 years experience in IT, I have combined different methodologies that follow a full System Development Life Cycle. I would love to share my knowledge in this area with you in detail.

  5. Mental Doodle

    This one is not as complicated as it seems.

    George 🙂
    Four Stages

    We all go through these steps and in this order:
    1. Un-conscious In-competence
    You don’t know that there is something to which you don’t know how/what to do.
    As a baby you are not aware of your shoes, your shoe laces, and the fact that you can’t tie them.
    2. Conscious In-competence
    You become aware there is something to which you don’t know what/how to do.
    You now realize you have shoes and realize you don’t know how to tie the laces.
    3. Conscious Competence
    You learn to do whatever it is.
    Tongue in cheek you concentrate very hard and after trial and error you succeed in tying them.
    4. Unconscious Competence
    You don’t pay any attention to whatever you are doing and you can do it.
    You tie your shoelaces without even thinking about it.

    1. Ignorance is bliss.
    2. Source of encouragement. Now you know there’s something you never knew. At least you are now aware of it.
    3. Source of self confidence. See, I can do it. I can learn. Etc.
    4. Source of nothing. Talent lives here. You ‘automatically’…

    To increase your self confidence bring #4 into # 3 and look.
    And see that you do actually know what to do in these situations.
    Not “Phew, somehow I pulled that off. Again.”

    Bringing #4 into # 3 will increase your self confidence.

    greorge reynolt

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