Product management glosary

Known Unknowns

What is Known Unknowns?


In product management, there are various terms that are used to describe different aspects of the product development process. One such term is known unknowns. This term refers to the things that we know we don't know about a product or project. It may sound confusing, but it is an essential concept that can help product managers plan and execute their projects more effectively.


Known unknowns are the things that we are aware of but don't have enough information about. These can be risks, uncertainties, or potential problems that we know exist but cannot accurately predict or quantify. In other words, we know that there are things that we don't know, but we don't know what they are or how they will impact our project.


To better understand known unknowns, let's look at some examples. Suppose you are developing a new software product, and you know that there are some technical challenges that you need to overcome. However, you don't know how long it will take to solve these challenges or what impact they will have on the overall project timeline. Another example could be a product launch where you know that there are some potential risks involved, such as a competitor launching a similar product at the same time. However, you don't know how much of an impact this will have on your sales or how you can mitigate this risk.


Knowing your known unknowns is essential in product management because it helps you plan and prepare for potential risks and uncertainties. By acknowledging that there are things that you don't know, you can take steps to mitigate these risks and prepare contingency plans. This can help you avoid costly mistakes and delays in your project.


In conclusion, known unknowns are an essential concept in product management. They refer to the things that we know we don't know about a project or product. By acknowledging these unknowns, product managers can plan and prepare for potential risks and uncertainties, which can help them avoid costly mistakes and delays. Understanding known unknowns is crucial for effective product management and successful project execution.