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The Road to Known Knowns


A few weeks ago I posted with some thoughts on the Data/Information/Knowledge/Wisdom hierarchy (DIKW). There are some interesting parallels with that hierarchy and another useful concept called the Known/Unknown Matrix.


“Known known’s” are the things an individual or organization knows that they have the information for; this is roughly parallel to the logical “Information” level as conceived of in the DIKW hierarchy. Organizations tend to have standard reports or weekly updates or real-time measurements of this level of data. KPI’s (Key Performance Indicators) are the quintessential known-known’s.


“Known unknown’s” are the things we know we ought to know, but we haven’t yet obtained or used the right tools to either collect the data or to organize data in a way that is meaningful. A lot of effort has gone into allowing organizations to identify known-unknown’s and to take action to transform them into known-known’s. More traditional report-building Business Intelligence (BI) application companies have making the case for years now that using their tools will allow organizations to accomplish this more easily; indeed, IDV Solutions believes our focus on Visual Composite Applications can also help organizations leverage their existing systems to dig down into the known-unknown quadrant. I believe that taking action on the known-unknown’s is a big step towards achieving the logical “Knowledge” level of the DIKW hierarchy.


But what really intrigues me about the Known/Unknown matrix is the bottom left quadrant (there really isn’t a whole lot you can do with the unknown-unknown quadrant unless you have a good quality tarot card reader on staff). What I find interesting is the number of our customers that come back to us and say something like “we didn’t even know we had that kind of data until we saw it on the map.” I think the real power of Visual Composite Applications may be in their ability to expose the “unknown” questions that have “known” answers buried in an organization’s existing data sources. When a business analyst see’s a set of data that they thought they knew intimately displayed on the map, and recognizes that a set of warning icons all cluster inside a given time zone, they’re probably answering a question they hadn’t even thought to ask. IDV puts a focus on making those kinds of discoveries not just possible, but probable. And, it’s those exercises in discovery, I believe, that are the beginning of learning how to work at the “Wisdom” end of the DIKW spectrum.


Christopher Abraham / IDV Solutions


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