business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

The rapper Nipsey Hussle was tragically killed last week and like you, I was filled with questions. No, not about the senselessness of the murder, but rather about how there could be so much attention and concern paid to someone whose name I had never heard before.

What’s more, and I know I’m not alone in this, was his name somehow a tribute to Nipsey Russell, a comedian I knew of mainly from Hollywood Squares? (The rapper’s birth name was Ermias Joseph Ashgedom. His stage name was suggested by a friend and actually was a play on Nipsey Russell. Go figure.)

As I said, I had a lot of questions and largely the simple recognition that like everyone else, I only know what I know.

It’s not just rappers. My son, a classical musician, excitedly texted me recently with the news that he was in Chicago performing with Renee Fleming and Eric Owens. In the world of opera, that is apparently a really big deal.

A few days later, he texted me (far less excitedly) that his girlfriend - a French horn player - had been hired to play in an upcoming concert with The Who. This time, I got really excited, though a little confused as to why The Who needs a French horn. (Then again, who cares? I now have a connection to some great tickets!)

But here’s what I think we can glean from all of this. Nipsey Hussle was obviously a really big deal in his community as are both Renee Fleming and the Who, but I’m probably not alone in getting excited about only one-third of those names. Once again, we only know what we know.

In the immediate aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld talked about the challenges US troops were facing in the country. As Rumsfeld put it, some problems were the “known knowns” or issues we knew we’d face. Some were the “known unknowns” or issues we expected to face, but didn’t fully understand.

Most troubling were the “unknown unknowns” or the problems we didn’t expect and didn’t understand at all.

In so many ways, that perfectly describes the challenges we all face these days. There are issues we find difficult and maybe troubling, but we at least know what they are. Or maybe we simply know those issues are out there. But what we can’t know is what we simply don’t know at all—those unknown unknowns.

And that brings us back to an issue we talk about here frequently, the importance of diversity and inclusion of varied and different viewpoints. Nipsey Hussle, Renee Fleming and the Who may not explain everything you and your business faces, but symbolically they explain everything. Somehow you need surround yourself with people who know and appreciate what you can’t or don’t know. Otherwise, none of us have any chance of connecting with the unknown unknowns and who knows how much business we are missing because of that.

About 10 days ago, I had a Lyft driver who got very excited talking to me about supermarket shopping. Her favorite store is Aldi and not because of prices. In her opinion, Aldi’s meat makes it her store of choice. I’m betting that comment will leave many industry people puzzled, but that’s a real opinion from a real shopper with real needs and values.

Remember, you can’t possibly understand the unknown unknowns. But you might be able to find someone who can.

Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
KC's View: