It is commonly said that people are afraid of what they don’t know than what they know. Psychologists argued that its a trait common in us humans and developed from the dangerous way the world used to be, while others believe the unknown does not allow for control necessary for the conformity that knowledge brings or we are simply afraid of change. Fearing the unknown is acceptable but failing to do something about it is what is not and here are reasons why.
Everything we have come to know about the world today were once unknown. Whatever knowledge we have today of anything was once unknown and even knowledge itself comes from knowing the unknown. Without the unknown, there is simply no knowledge because you cannot learn by doing what you already know but by doing what you do not know. If there is any new knowledge today that you are learning or already learnt, it is because someone, somewhere, took the bold step to do something about it in the unknown to make it realizable.
Embracing the unknown has its benefits and there are consequences for ignoring it also. Organizations whose strategy was to stick to what they know how to do best have all been disrupted and forgotten by smaller companies willing to explore uncharted territories. No one knew carpooling or ridesharing was possible as a big business until Uber came along. No one knew how big of a market vacation rentals can be until Airbnb came up with their disruptive model that have since challenged traditional hotel room rentals for vacation purposes.
Imagine how smartphones became the death of digital camera giants or how they transformed the music and electronic industries comfortable with CD or radio cassette players. Leading companies today are founded by individuals who understands the power of the unknown and aren’t afraid to explore. Common patterns of their curiosity, courageousness are obvious in their actions such as Richard Branson’s determination to explore space travel as a business; Google and Facebook’s driverless car missions; Amazon’s drone delivery goals in the online retailing space; Elon Musk’s passion to colonize the Mars with his space travel proposition and, recently, his Hyperloop (tube transportation system) adventure.
They have all embraced the unknown and have decided to blaze the trail in different capacities. There are still a lot to be discovered in the unknown and pointers that lead to that next big thing are emerging as well. To innovate, you have to be willing to do three things and these are:
- Be tirelessly curious
Being curious doesn’t have to sound or feel like work because we all in one way or the other ask questions about anything that peaks our interest everyday and that is all it takes – thinking and questioning. The unknown cannot be illuminated or discovered if you are not curious enough or you just accept everything as they come. Navigating such a terrain towards knowledge requires a great deal of concentrated and consistent curiosity and you do that first with your mind before any other physical moves. Focus your mind’s energy on a particular problem or source of worry, and explore it with your thoughts and questions. You would have started the process towards discovery by doing just that.
- Be courageous
Yes, I agree that the unknown is scary and that is okay. Otherwise, knowledge will have no value because the feeling you get when you know what you do not know before is never the same as going over what you already know all over again. Courage can help you start the discovery process amid all fears or oppositions and take it even further than you originally envisioned. Ideas that have the potential to change norms, behaviors, culture, global business practices etc. initially appears as impossibilities, with many challenges or oppositions just before making the first move. You will certainly need a burst of courage if you want to actualize an unknown idea or concept in such a harsh business environment.
- Take action
Finally, acting is when you go to work by physically exploring the dark corners of the unknown to find solutions. It is when you channel your resources, with the full awareness of the risks and dangers involved, towards validating your ideas, thoughts or vision. It is very important because obtaining knowledge requires making a move in its direction. Being action-oriented involves having the internal drive to do what needs to be done to validate an idea, prove a concept, add to knowledge or implement a new business model.
Act by first writing down the unknown idea you want to explore; do your research online and offline to see if anything as such exist or there are alternatives; speak to someone experienced in related field and secure their mentorship throughout the process; experiment to validate your idea or business model; seek for like minded individuals to work with, who is a natural risk taker and ready to commit to your vision; pitch to investors if you can’t finance initial production or sales process to potential customers; launch, scale and learn continuously to establish the new knowledge, concept, process, product or service. That is all it takes!
This is not the era to be satisfied with the status quo or seek stability or excessive control but a time to push your self towards unlearning and learning new things everyday. The founders of the companies described above took the initiatives to explore the unknown, when others were busy sticking to what they were good at doing. It is time to move away from the usual to explore uncharted territories by being tirelessly curious, courageous and action-oriented. That is a sure-fire way to help advance our knowledge of the world and to leave footprints in the sands of time.
What are you doing about the unknown today?
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