Unknown unknowns and why to embrace them


As George Bush Junior’s right-hand man former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld once commented – ironically something that might as well have come from the mouth of the US president of the time: 

“There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns; that is to say there are things that, we now know we don't know.
But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don't know.”

Er…right. Misspeak not dissimilar to his boss’s relentless faux pas, what the former oilman was actually saying was deemed unfathomable at the time - albeit the perfect ‘Rumsfeldism’ which the press joyfully scorned in its leader articles.

On reflection it seems that Rumsfeld, who even paraphrased this insight for the title of his 2011 memoir ,“Known and Unknown", was simply rephrasing that old maxim: “We only know what we know.”

And it’s true. We only know what we know. We may know there are unknowns we don’t know and even ones we don’t know we don’t know. But we don’t know what they are. Geddit?

It’s the same for any ideological revolution, be it the feminist movement, the Civil Rights movement, the Chartists fighting for the working class vote in Victorian England – previously it was believed that the status quo was well, the right way. Until disgruntled minority groups took umbrage and fought back en masse, demonstrating that previous 'truisms' were simply assumptions.

Plus ca change.

And it’s the same with technological revolutions. There are ways, methods of communicating, working together, structuring our lives that we don’t know about. And we don’t know we don’t know. And maybe we don’t want to know what we don’t know because…it seems too much hassle. Because the old way works. Because… because well, we’re just quite happy with how things are thanks very much.

For example, if you’d have told anyone in the early noughties that by the end of the decade a mass friendship network online would become a simple, mundane part of everyday life, as fluid, as interactive as social lives offline, no one would have believed it. If anyone had told you in 1992 – the age of the ‘brick’ yuppie mobile - that everyone from pre-teens to pensioners would communicate  using mobile phones in ten years time, it would have seemed astonishing.

Many still remain overwhelmed at the extent to which disruptive ways of working and living are taking over our everyday lives. It’s easy for people to feel ill-at-ease, unsure about these new changes.

That’s understandable. But back to the unknowns. If we’d have known that penicillin could cure the wounds of soldiers two hundred years ago, would we have dismissed it because we felt concerned about new advances in medicine? No, of course not.  If we'd had access to cheap air travel in the 17th century, you can be damn sure that it would have been embraced into everyday life, along with wigs and breeches.

So why not embrace technological disruption with open arms? Open arms as we realise and understand that there are enormous benefits to being more connected. Enormous benefits to creating strong online communities, to helping each other out. It’s key that we learn new etiquette along the way, it’s key that we can make sure safety is paramount. But it’s all about adapting to the new rules.

Those ‘unknown unknowns.’





Keep it local, keep it real!



As society becomes increasingly cynical about the benefits of economic globalisation, seeing it as a get-rich scheme for a tiny amount at the top of the tree at the expense of the masses, many are turning towards traditional ideas of community and localism. There’s particularly been a shift in mentality amongst the younger generation, as I have touched on before.

Well, as it becomes more and more apparent that this recession is not simply a minor blip that will simply solve itself if we all get out there and start spending some of our hard earned cash on various superfluous items, some UK cities are focusing on keeping it local rather than putting their cash into the pockets of faceless, tax-avoiding international companies (hello! We all know who you are!)

So Bristol, which for all those who don’t know is a large city in the south-west of England, decided to take things a step further and introduce their own currency: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-bristol-19627592

This currency cannot be used outside of the city, hence keeping trade local, creating jobs, services and loyal customers. We’ve yet to see the real results of this experiment, but it’s an important step to localising economies and creating a strong, binding sense of community.

In fact, let’s take it a step further and imagine that ‘money’ as a currency is replaced by something tangible, a skill, a favour for example (a la pre-industrial societies.) For example, I exchange my language skills for my neighbour’s hairdressing skills – no coins exchanging hands, a simple swapping of talents to help each other out.

That’s just one way of doing things – of course money for now doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere (for a while, at least!) The idea is that the power, the sustainability of communities is put back into our hands. Self-actualisation, on a mass scale. I’ve heard figures that suggest that when we buy local for example, up to two thirds of all money spent stays within the community, helping neighbourhoods grow.

And we’re all probably halfway there already. Think about it – your local restaurant – you may recommend your friends to go there. Or perhaps you helped out a neighbour by distributing her leaflets for her own small business amongst your friends and family? Maybe you shared a car with a neighbour to get your children to school? Perhaps someone in your community found you a place to stay when you were new to the area? Have a think – there are probably many examples.

The point is that the little things we do, mindlessly every day, have a bigger power, a bigger potential. It’s simply a case of realising this and building the ties that bind us to each other to create tight-knit communities which support each other in the tough times, so storms such as this current global hurricane can be weathered more easily.

The word-of-mouth effect


For small businesses one of the main advantages of the internet is that in theory they can reach potentially tens of thousands of potential clients that they couldn’t previously. Be it through social media, Search Engine Optimisation or an amazing website, the possibilities are endless. So, why are so many small businesses/one-man-bands NOT making the most of these cheap and effective marketing methods?

Although some bigger tradesmen/local services do have a web presence, many don’t. And there certainly aren’t lots of plumbers or electricians out there tweeting away! Is it perhaps because most recommendations they receive are actually word-of-mouth? Is it because trust is a key element of ensuring customers return again and again? From my own personal experience, when looking for a local service I am hesitant to call some random name that pops up – I’m not sure if they price reasonably, if they’re reliable, if they’ll do a good job. I’ll ask around first on my personal networks and only as a last resort try the unknowns.

What if, however, there was a way of combining the extensive reach of online marketing methods with the comforting ‘word-of-mouth’ effect? Well some industry-specific sites are doing just that. Online reviews, customer satisfaction and feedback are a key part of these sites, with the idea being that the ‘community’ rates and judges the services and then online ‘reputations’ are built up.

It’s the Trip Advisor effect – and it works!

However, at Skillendar we feel that this method has extensive potential and can’t wait for it to become part of everyday reality for communities and neighbourhoods. The added benefit of real time results and location-based marketing means there’s no wait time, which can be frustrating if there’s a sink blocked/freezing house with no water, or whatever the problem may be. Imagine a world where you could rely on such efficiency, reliability and credibility in any service you use? The true scope of this revolution in how we use and review services has not yet been reached and Skillendar can’t wait to get started!

Life will get a lot simpler.

Community is the new society


Ever since Margaret Thatcher claimed “There is no such thing as society” in the 1980s, the pursuit of materialistic goals and individualistic achievements at all cost has been viewed as a laudable aim in the UK.

A generation was raised to believe that “success” meant money, stuff and more stuff - acquisitiveness at the expense of personal relationships and neighbourly values.  Unquestioned by mainstream society and spurred on by the “greed is good” mantra, inspired by media images of power women wearing shoulder pads and yuppies quaffing champagne whilst watching their bank balances swell, the nation seemed hypnotised by cold, hard cash.

Twenty years and a serious reality check later, such values couldn’t be further out of fashion.

Ever since 2008, all of us in Britain (along with other western countries) have been slowly waking up from what seems to have been an extremely pleasurable dream. Rubbing our eyes, we’ve walked out into cold piercing daylight, only to realise that the dream was in fact a nightmare in disguise.

For many, this recession that seems no signs of going away quickly, has inspired a welcome shift in terms of the mood and mentality of the nation. Although fiscally tough, a whole new generation has been inspired by what were previously deemed as “old-fashioned” values of community spirit, cooperation and prizing relationships before personal aggrandisement .

Gone are the days when graduates focused on careers which were demanding, time-consuming and high-earning. Generation Y (those born between the late seventies and the early noughties) are instead prizing altruism, flexibility and ethical values above cash and status from the companies they work for.

Community spirit is seen as a key part of this new shift in values. Working together to create a better environment, be it globally, at home or in their immediate area  is now a priority for young people. As a neighbourhood network for you to connect with and reach out to your local community, Skillendar is proud to be part of this zeitgeist. We believe community cooperation is a key part of basic human interaction which is why we devised the unique calendar based skill search that helps you find the availability of people in your neighbourhood who are open to share their time or provide a service.

The future will be built by communities working in tangent, by pulling together in times of emergency, by prioritising a return to basic ideals. Whatever happens with the economy (and it can only get better- we hope) if your neighbourhood remains strong and interactive, helping each other and swapping skills and time, trust, security and ultimately happiness can be built.

This is our vision and we hope you’ll be part of it.

More about Skillendar

Search your local community for tradespeople

It used to be your local paper or phone book that you went to when you needed a local tradesman or service but sadly, the local paper probably went out of business and the days of the phone book are well numbered. So how do you connect with skilled people in your local community these days? Online, that's how. Skillendar is a community social network application that lets you look into your own neighborhood to find services and skilled tradespeople that might not have a Main Street shop at their disposal but have all the skills to complete the job you need done. And with the typical skilled person probably being someone working a second job or a student you can negotiate a fair and much cheaper price to do the job than maybe Main Street will charge you. More...


Sell Your Skills On Skillendar – The Neighborhood Social Network

Have a look at our KillerStartup interview : http://bit.ly/MWXWn8

Featured BizSpark Startup on Azure - Skillendar

Skillendar has been featured on Microsoft BizSpark today. Have a look at the interview http://aka.ms/bmomru


Getting started

Once you have registered with Skillendar, follow the instructions below to setup your profile properly and get the most out Skillendar.

  1. How do I update my profile?
  2. How do I explore and connect with people in my neighbourhood?
  3. How do I invite my friends and family?
  4. How do I communicate with my connections or other members?
  5. How do I publish skills and start sharing my time or providing services?


How do I update my profile?

Click on the settings menu and choose 'profile' to go to the profile section. Go through every item on the profile menu and update the details as required. Please remember to provide as accurate and detailed information as possible to increase your credibility.





Finally, check your public profile by clicking on your profile picture


How do I explore and connect with people in my neighbourhood?


Adjust the distance and press 'Explore' button to re-run the search. Send connection requests to all the people you know in your neighbourhood.



Also use the 'People you may know' option to find people who are connected to your connections.