Just watched Errol Morris’ latest film The Unknown Known and it blew my mind. I went into it expecting to just hate on former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld even more as he stumbled through his transgressions with Iraq. But, frankly, I was surprised with his insightful take on the world. For one, he described the 9/11 attacks as a “failure of imagination” for the US. We simply just could not comprehend this type of attack, so how could we prevent it? It made me think about all the times at ad agencies where we have a “failure of imagination,” which leaves us underprepared for the inevitable. What’s cool about this is that it conveys the unexpected is unexpected for a reason. You have to be creative to be ready. And all too often we wait to react.
Perhaps this famous quote sums up Rumsfeld’s unique illogical look at logic:
“…because as we know, there are known knowns; there are things that we know that 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..”
What’s key here is the “unknown unknowns.” It can be so hard to solve a problem you do not know exists. In fact, we tackle this every day within our agencies. We jump ahead looking to solve problems we think we understand — but we are cast off on the wrong course. It’s not until we allow ourselves to move past the “known unknowns” that we will be able to harness our creativity to immerse ourselves into our brands to fundamentally comprehend the “unknown unknowns.”
Rumsfeld may have a ton of blood on his hands, but he is correct about our collective “failure of imagination.” All too often we wait for the world to come to us.