The orientation of leadership

What is IDKN®?

We don’t know YET.

If you’re a leader at any level, it’s certain to say at some point you’ll have experienced a state of IDKN®️. It’s part of the job and arguably the most challenging. Whatever your reaction at moments of IDKN®️ will determine your success, or failure, as a leader. Dealing with IDKN®️ is a keystone of leadership and yet as a subject, it’s rarely addressed or understood.
This sums up the infinite space that I-Don’t-Know-ness presents to us.


To be informative: Provide insights and information about the state in which nobody knows! To engage people through activities and provocative ideas To be a source of “That’s just what I needed right now!” To help you, as a leader, get comfortable in the space and state of IDKN®️, so ultimately you create much better results for yourself, your team, your enterprise and the world. Get out of the Mud and into the Magic!

Leadership in a Crisis.

IDKN®️ was developed out of asking ‘What do leaders do, when they don’t know what to do?’ So, What do YOU do? Would it be useful to you if you knew the answer that? Would it be useful if you could have a tool, a methodology which simply and quickly illuminated your situation, allowing you to make better decisions and take better actions?

I-Don’t-Know-ness: Always been around but exposed by 2020 Pandemics

The entire world has been inflicted by a life-threatening pandemic for many months now.  In the earliest days, we were expecting formally appointed and/or elected leaders to step up and lead us through the minefield of data, events, and guesses coming at us from all directions.  It was if there had been an earthquake, a global disruption that created a giant chasm or void that we all risked falling into – unless someone could show us the way to safety.

Where is the conventional leader we expected?  We waited and hoped; we scrambled and tried to make sense.  We attempted to follow one way, then another.  Out of desperation for the sense of control and normalcy, many chose one path or another, regardless of continually revealed new findings.  

Yet this pandemic is like no other crisis.  It is not geographically bound, as with a hurricane or volcanic eruption, or even a tsunami.  Such disasters require leaders who can create clarity from chaos and create conditions for people alignment, all with the goal of reconnecting the site of the disaster back to the global grid from which is was temporarily detached.  As of late September, 2020, a Google search on Leading in a Crisis brings up 855,000,000 articles, reports, programs, courses, and books – in 0.67 seconds, all identifying the characteristics of crisis leaders and the capabilities we need. The skills of a leader during a crisis, however, are not fully transferable to those of the multiple pandemics we are experiencing across the globe. Therefore, we can’t look for conventional leaders; we can more productively look for what capacities and capabilities emerge from the void.

The pandemic has actually revealed what has been around forever: We are always guestimating, just without as much life-threatening severity.  The circumstance of I-Don’t-Know-ness, for example, was popularized as VUCA, (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity), initially used in the military context and adopted by the business world to refer to the fast pace of changing markets, the uncertainty of decisions, the complexity due to multiple stakeholders, the ambiguity of interpretations at a distance.  VUCA now seems so much simpler as the variables were based on tangible data and identified targets.

The pandemic has now compelled the need for more time to be devoted to playing in the space of I-Don’t-Know-ness, where VUCA has taken on “complexpontential” magnitude.  Like balancing on the deck of a boat, while being tossed on the waves in a storm, we cannot expect or hope for shore where safe and solid ground provides security; instead we need to develop comfort in continually finding balance among turbulence.  That’s just the expected “normal”, no big deal.  Those who self/other lead must be equally comfortable with continual adaptation within a system. 

This won’t be the world’s last pandemic or state of I-Don’t-Know-ness.  We know that uncomfortable feeling of “which way is up?” We can now practice building our comfort with being uncomfortable and grow it to our advantage.

The Big Shifts: From conventional management to leading in I-Don't-Know-ness

Conventional management Leading in I-Don’t-Know-ness
Functional definition of role; delineated responsibilities; metrics results focused. Role spans function, cultural, geographic boundaries.  Fluidly defined responsibilities. 
Metrics process focused.
Aligned with fuzzy vision.
Control-oriented;  resources seen as scarce; either we  protect them or lose them Generative-oriented.
Continual reinventing of resources;
resources seen as infinite
Cautious approach to dynamic environment; Change = threat Open approach to dynamic environment;  Change = opportunity
Eliminate or avoid conflict.  Structure communication to support controlled objectives. Paradox expected; conflict is source of learning and new opportunities
Goal is to avoid surprises Not surprised by surprises; goal is to be flexibly prepared for surprises, agile and adaptive navigation
Fixed focus on specific knowledge and skills, in spite of change in environment. Lifelong learning – breadth, depth and scope Responsive to changes and open to revisions
Reactive, protective, centralized focus: behind the curve Proactive, “heat-seeking”, multi-perspective focus: continually looking for the next curve

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