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Fear of the unknown?


The failure of the social bookmarking company Ma.gnolia because of database corruption made me think about the dangers of reinventing the wheel.

This won’t be the first business (or the last) to fail because of lost data.

The video of Larry Halff (the founder) explaining what happened shows plenty of contrition. Larry admits he made mistakes and I admire the focus he places on the lessons he has learned.

But maybe the biggest lesson might be to be more open to things that other people have already learnt – in this case over 50 or more years of IT and software development. The primary mistake the company made seems to have been very basic – not testing a backup worked before it was needed.

Larry seems a very bright guy. But I wonder, if I had made the same mistake, what would have stopped me getting the help I needed? Over-confidence and thinking I knew what I was doing, probably. And more specifically, not knowing what I didn’t know.

And, perhaps, being afraid to find out.

Formal education doesn’t seem to do much to encourage us to admit what we don’t know. Assessment, for example, is all about proving what do know, not learning our limitations. But especially in uncertain times revealing the extent of our knowledge, however limited, is surely a powerful thing to do.

Author: Pete Burden

New ways to organise and lead - for people with 'purpose' #leadership #inquiry #noticing #complexity #communication

2 thoughts on “Fear of the unknown?

  1. Pete – if you haven’t already read it, do check out The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. As he puts it: “I am interested in how to live in a world we don’t understand very well –in other words, while most human thought (particularly since the enlightenment) has focused us on how to turn knowledge into decisions, I am interested in how to turn lack of information, lack of understanding, and lack of “knowledge” into decisions –how not to be a “turkey”. My last book The Black Swan drew a map of what we don’t understand; my current work focuses on how to domesticate the unknown.”

    More at:

  2. Pingback: Opening Minds «

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