This post is just as relevant today as when I published it over 5 years ago. Assumed knowledge is often the biggest impediment to creativity and innovation, it limits how we see and understand the world around us. Next week I'll be posting the piece I've been working on, a deeper look at how our interaction with the unknown can either lead us to fear or excitement, and how each of those decisions affects our experience and what we can create with it.
Originally published on September 20, 2014.
I’m an Empowerment Coach here to help you expand your potential by releasing limitations that are holding you back.
Sometimes I find that the greatest obstacle to understanding is the idea of knowledge. You see knowledge can act as a bias, if you let it. When we think we know something, we risk closing off alternative possibilities with the assumption that our knowledge is correct and complete. This way of thinking not only limits our understanding, but also closes the mind to new information that may contradict our perceived knowledge.
As former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said:
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.”
It is important to note that some, or all, of the things we consider to be “known knowns” could actually be “unknown unknowns.” Therefore known knowns are things that we think we know.
It is possible to know something in a specific context; in math we know that 1+1=2 because we consider that 1 is a mathematical object with certain characteristics. However, 1+1=3 is also possible under another set of assumptions: 1 woman + 1 man can result in 3 humans under the right circumstances and given enough time. Given this characteristic of knowledge, it is very important to remember the context of our knowledge.
All information comes to us through our senses, in the form of perceptions. We observe specific phenomena, directly or indirectly, and then we assess and categorize the observations to build an idea. Knowledge does not denote certainty in a broad sense, but rather in a specific sense. In our environment, nature is continually changing and adapting, what may have been observed in the past could occur differently in the present.
This is where the “known unknowns” category comes in. When we admit that we do not know for certain, we become open to new possibilities and solutions that otherwise would have been discarded as being contrary to our perceived knowledge.
Assumed knowledge could be the biggest obstacle to creativity and innovation: when we stop asking questions we stop learning. The first step of the learning process is to admit that you don’t know, this opens the mind so it is ready to experiment with “crazy” new ideas that challenge what society has deemed possible.
Let go of everything you thought you knew. Be willing to experience things as if it were the first time, you never know what new understandings and insights you may gain.
Integrity Health is a franchise company residing in New Hampshire. We specialize in health coaching centers combining fitness with weight loss to optimize and promote optimal health. We are also the national purveyors of the EZCOACH Fitness Prescription System licensed by fitness professionals.