The Rumsfeld Matrix Has Implications (Rumsfeld Part 2)

If you are working in a world that depends on rigorous use of verifiable data (the bottom left quadrant), it is likely that your innovations will be incremental; that is, product improvements rather than breakthroughs.

Conversely, if you are really working “out of the box”, you are most likely in the top right quadrant.

  • What does this imply about Six Sigma techniques and innovation?
  • Can one work “out of the box” without knowing where the box is?
  • How much does industry even care about real breakthrough innovations anymore?

Rumsfeld Matrix (Part 1)

”Reports that say that something hasn’t happened are always interesting to me, because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns — the ones we don’t know we don’t know.” — 2002, Donald Rumsfeld.

From this came “The Rumsfeld Matrix”.

Rumsfeld Matrix

Product developers and their managers have always had trouble dealing with uncertainty. The Rumsfeld Matrix illustrates both the “comfort” that comes from working in the lower left quadrant where all is known, as well as the complexity with working in the top right.

You can bet the “fuzzy front end” is not so fuzzy if you live in the bottom left quadrant.

More about the implications of this in future posts.