Problem-solving is an essential aspect of our lives. Whether it is a personal issue or a complex organizational challenge, the key to finding a successful solution is breaking down the problem into smaller, manageable parts. One effective approach to problem-solving is to divide a problem into three parts: knowns, unknowns, and unknowables.
Knowns are the elements of the problem that are already known and understood. These can include facts, figures, and other data that provide a clear understanding of the problem's nature and scope. For example, if the problem is to reduce the time required to complete a task, the knowns could include the current time required to complete the task, the resources available, and any constraints that might limit the solutions available.
Unknowns are the elements of the problem that are not yet understood or known. These can include data that is missing or unclear, as well as potential solutions that need to be evaluated. In the example above, the unknowns could include the reasons for the current time required to complete the task, the impact of any changes made to the process, and the feasibility of different solutions.
Unknowables are elements of the problem that cannot be determined or predicted with certainty. These can include future events, such as changes in the market or competition, or the effects of external factors, such as weather or politics. In the example above, the unknowables could include the future demands on the task, the impact of technological changes, or the impact of future market conditions.
Breaking down a problem into knowns, unknowns, and unknowables provides a clear and structured approach to problem-solving. By identifying what is known and what is unknown about a problem, we can focus our efforts on gathering the information necessary to make informed decisions. By recognizing what is unknowable, we can also acknowledge our limitations and develop contingency plans for any potential risks or uncertainties.