Navigating the Unforeseen of Unknown Unknowns

Thursday, April 18, 2024

I vividly recall the time when we were building the MVP for echofin. We were a small team of four, working on a product that had never been built before. We constantly encountered challenges that we had never anticipated—frequently dealing with unknown unknowns.

But what is an unknown unknown? These are factors or problems you can't foresee because you don't know they exist yet. Imagine planning a picnic without knowing that a storm was even a possibility; that's an unknown unknown. In business, especially when launching a new product, these are the surprises that can derail your project without warning.

So how can you prepare your team for the unforeseen challenges of unknown unknowns when developing an MVP? Here are some essential tips to help you navigate the complexities of launching a new product successfully. Most of these tips are based on my experience building MVPs and working with startups.

Flexible Team Culture

To handle the unexpected, your team needs to be flexible. Encourage an environment where change is not only accepted but expected. Train your team to adapt by shifting strategies and plans without much notice. A team that can pivot quickly in response to new information or situations is more likely to succeed in the volatile early stages of a product launch. A note here is that flexibility does not mean chaos. It is important to have a clear vision and a clear plan. But it is also important to be able to adapt to new information.

Push for a culture of ongoing education and curiosity. When team members are motivated to learn and explore, they are more likely to identify potential unknown unknowns before they become problems. Regular training sessions, workshops, and even encouraged reading can expand your team's knowledge and foresight.

Those ideas are not meant to be implemented only in small organizations like startups. They can be implemented in larger organizations as well. The larger the organization the more difficult it is to change the culture. But it is not impossible. Smaller leaner teams can be created within the organization that will be able to adapt to new information and new challenges.

Implement Risk Management Strategies

Begin with regular risk assessment sessions where your team brainstorms possible challenges related to the project. Even though you can't predict everything, this practice gets your team in the mindset of thinking critically about what could go wrong.

For each risk identified, develop a plan B (and even a plan C). These contingency plans should outline steps to take if the original plan encounters obstacles. Having these in place ensures that your team won't be caught off guard and can quickly switch gears.

While we were developing the MVP for Echofin, we continually considered potential challenges and devised strategies to mitigate them. This is a practice I still uphold today.

Utilize Communication Tools

Ensure that every team member can easily communicate with others, no matter where they are. Use project management tools and platforms that allow for instant messaging and updates. This way, when someone encounters an unexpected issue, they can share it with the team immediately.

Frequent meetings or check-ins can help catch and address issues before they escalate. These don’t have to be long—brief, focused discussions on current challenges and updates can be incredibly effective.

Foster a Safe Environment

Create a team atmosphere where members feel safe to express concerns and uncertainties. Often, team members may notice something off but hesitate to mention it for fear of being wrong. A supportive environment encourages sharing these insights, which can be crucial in navigating unknowns.

When a team member takes the initiative to address a potential issue or suggests an innovative solution, recognize and reward that behavior. This not only boosts morale but also encourages others to be proactive in identifying and solving problems.


Preparing for unknown unknowns when developing an MVP isn't about having all the answers; it's about building a team and a process that's equipped to handle unexpected challenges. By fostering a flexible, communicative, and proactive workplace culture, you can navigate the complexities of launching a new product more smoothly and successfully.

Remember, the goal is to turn unknown unknowns into known unknowns, and eventually, into well-understood challenges that your well-prepared team can tackle confidently.

This article was generated with the assistance of AI and refined using proofing tools. While AI technologies were used, the content and ideas expressed in this article are the result of human curation and authorship.

Read more about this topic at: Importance is All You Need