The Invisible Unknown Wholeness
Definition of the tip of the iceberg metaphor.
A small and unknown part of something much larger and unknown.
We are all aware (but usually ignore) that what we see is the tip of the iceberg, a small part of something. What we don’t see is the much larger part. What we don’t see is also what we don’t know. But we don’t seem to realize that what we know and don’t know are also the tip of the iceberg. We know about 10% of what is known. The idea of this metaphor for this blog is that what you see or know about it is only a fraction of what can be seen or known. This blog is about the invisible unknown.
Inserting the iceberg metaphor into what you know and don’t know can keep you alert to the hazards of what you don’t know. It keeps you asking, “What about the other 90%”? What about what I don’t know? What else is there? There is probably more you don’t know than what you do know. And what you don’t know may be the most troubling.
In spite of what Mark Twain says, (It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. It’s what you know for sure that ain’t so.) what you don’t know can get you in trouble. Big trouble. Twain was trying to emphasize the dangers of certainty, what you know “for sure”. Certainty can get you in trouble, but so can not knowing, the part of the iceberg that is hidden. You don’t see what you can’t see, and you can’t know what you don’t know … the knowledge that is hidden.
Enter positive uncertainty as a method for dealing with the iceberg metaphor. If you imagine that what you see and know is the tip of the iceberg, you will be uncertain, realizing that you don’t see or know everything. And you will be positive about this uncertainty because it alerts you to the hidden part of the iceberg. You can say, “What I see and what I know is only a small and unknown part of something much larger and unknown. I need to be careful not to be too sure.
Just to imagine that what you see and know is only 10% of reality is a powerful metaphoric vision, and it is often true in today’s world of increasing complexity and rapid change. But the human need to know makes this vision hard to come by. The iceberg metaphor may be helpful in convincing the human mind that what it sees is not all there is. What you don’t know can get you in trouble and some is probably hidden.These are the “unknown unknowns” made famous by Donald Rumsfeld.
Confucius: True wisdom is knowing what you don’t now.
Positive Uncertainty: Wisdom is also knowing that you don’t know much of what you don’t know.