navigating the unknown

the living and the dead

One of these self-styled innovation gurus was at my organisation a couple of days ago. He had this 2 by 2 matrix which every self-styled guru would have at least one version of. In the top left quadrant is the case of "you know what you know", which basically means you are in your knowledge comfort zone. A boring place for the innovation guru. In the bottom left quadrant of "you don't know what you know" is kind of where most cubicle citizens are, hence where most consultants hang around to get paid telling you what you actually know.

Of course, being an innovation guru, he was more interested in the right quadrants. At the top right is where "you know what you don't know" - and in today's context, google and wikipedia supposedly provides a sort of knowledge or content democracy for folks found in this zone.

But what happens when you don't know what you don't know? His answer was that you would start to do some scenario planning, prototyping, environment survey etc. And his conclusion was that radical, paradigm-changing innovation starts from this quadrant of investigation. Instinctively, I doubted his neat categorisation. I mean, if you don't know what you don't know, how will you even know that you don't know something, much less embark on any kind of scenario planning or prototyping or experimentation or...

green thought
"a green thought in a green shade", my Marvellian paradise

Y: So tell me J, it's been 2 weeks since you left your job, how has your time been so far?
J: Technically, I am still on my job. My last day is 1st September 2006. That's exactly 8 years since I joined the organisation, not one day more or less.
Y: Lucky you, 8 is supposed to be a good number. Anyway, technicalities aside, you've not had to go to work the past 2 weeks!
J: Time passes so quickly.
Y: Don't try to change the subject.
J: No, it's true. The 1 thing I found out during the past 2 weeks is how fast time flies. There's so much to do, and before I know it, the day is over. Cleaning up the house, running, doing the assignments for class...
Y: So you haven't got time to think too much about what you are going to do next.
J: I don't know yet... maybe it was a mistake, to have quit my job without a concrete plan. After all, it pays pretty well.
J: Everyone who knows will say it's a stupid move to quit. We're really unwise hor?
Y: Well, it depends on whose wisdom is the benchmark...
J: But I've already told myself to stop looking back. Whatever happens next is just going to be a start of something new -
Y: That's right.

At this stage, I guess at least one of us is in that bottom right quadrant (although by definition, who knows?). And for both our sake, for once, I'm actually going to trust that the innovation guru is right!

As a modest start, sweet J made me this soap dish one afternoon with some leftover clay. It's 家物之二, only #2 of his Homely Creatures series. But he promised me more homely creatures in time.

homelycreature#2 (家物之二)
Mr Soapy is helpful, offering to hold a bar of soap and more with his, er, 2 horns. And Mr Ash is both obliging and an ashtray.

SHAMELESS ADVERTISEMENT - Friends, if any of you need some illustration or graphic work done, think of us! To see a portfolio of some commissioned stuff we've done before and if you need some kind of formal quotation first, just email J/TOHA: ampulets at


Tym said…
It is not a stupid move, it's a brave one --- one that most people don't dare to take! 加油!
wheyface said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
wheyface said…
mr. consultant seems to assume the absence of the sub-conscious and self-conscious introspection. maybe that's how he can do his job, by thinking that all people are as vacant as his constructs.

dissing done, i also want to play at quadrants:

1. realizing that we don't know when we don't know 2. pretending or deluded into thinking that we know when we don't know
3. pretending or deluded into thinking that we don't know when we know
4. realizing that we know when we know
Unknown said…
mr ash is super cute !! he looks like a kid on a snowy day. except the snow is ash ..

anyway i agree with tym. it's a brave move on both yr parts =) snaps to Y for being supportive too !
ampulets said…
Thanks tym! :) takes alot of courage, but when no work coming in, and when you see these days the photoshop, illustrator is like tools that all youngers know. you start to be afraid.

wheyface, i think Y belongs to the fifth group : Not knowing that she can when her talents can lead her to many possibilities!

SB, thanks. I like the way you interpret mr ash. yes. i am a lucky guy, and thank God for Y. She has been really great. I really hope i can do more for her though. -TOHA
Anonymous said…
yeah! you lucky one!!

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