Lessons from Chris Ward and Donald Rumsfeld

Posted on September 24, 2012 by Richard Hoptroff

16 September 2010, Maidenhead, Berkshire

Coming from outside the watchmaking industry can be a curse and a blessing.  We're trying to solve old problems that all watchmakers face, but we don't come with the baggage of tradition, so we often innovate without realizing it.  The downside, as Rumsfeld would say, is that you don't know what you don't know, and many things that would seems obvious to a watchmaker might not be at all obvious to us.

I went to see UK watchmaker Chris Ward over in Maidenhead to show him The George watch movement.  He must have thought I was mad, though I think he was charmed by my enthusiasm at least.  But he did point out a couple of things.  First, the pill shape was not going to go anywhere - people want round watches.  That was fine, we knew we were going a bit over the top in any case.  The second was more fundamental.  The USB port was going to be a bitch to waterproof.  It was going to create far more problems than it solved.  Back to the drawing board.

That first paragraph reminds me.  What Donald Rumsfeld originally said in 2002 was, "There are known knowns; there are things we know 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."  I wrote to him to point out there are unknown knowns, too: "...things you think you know when if fact you don't.  My wife specializes in these..."  It took nearly a year for the letter to percolate up the chain of command, but I did eventually receive a reply.

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