The Iceberg of Ignorance - How it Serves for Idea Generation?

In the vast sea of knowledge, there lies an intriguing concept known as the "Iceberg of Ignorance." This metaphorical iceberg represents the idea that only a fraction of what we don't know is visible to us, much like how only a small portion of an iceberg is visible above the water's surface. In this blog, we will explore the concept of the Iceberg of Ignorance and how it can be a valuable tool for idea generation and innovation.

The Iceberg of Ignorance

The concept of the Iceberg of Ignorance was first introduced by consultant and author Sidney Yoshida in the context of quality management and problem-solving within organizations. Yoshida observed that in many situations, only about 4% of an organization's problems were known to top management, while the remaining 96% of issues were hidden beneath the surface, known to frontline employees. This phenomenon can be extended beyond organizational contexts and applied to the broader spectrum of human knowledge and experience.

Understanding the Layers

To fully grasp how the Iceberg of Ignorance can aid in idea generation, it's essential to understand its layers:

  1. Visible Knowledge (4%): This top layer represents what we consciously know. These are the facts, information, and experiences that are readily available to us. In the context of idea generation, this might include the conventional wisdom, common practices, and existing solutions in a particular field.

  2. Conscious Ignorance (12%): Just below the surface lies the realm of conscious ignorance. These are the things we are aware we don't know. It includes questions, uncertainties, and gaps in our knowledge. This layer can be a rich source of ideas, as acknowledging what we don't know can lead to curiosity and exploration.

  3. Unconscious Ignorance (84%): The largest portion of the iceberg is submerged beneath the surface, representing the vast expanse of things we don't even realize we don't know. This is where the real magic happens for idea generation. It's the realm of undiscovered possibilities, untapped potential, and uncharted territories. 

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Leveraging the Iceberg for Idea Generation

Now that we've explored the layers of the Iceberg of Ignorance, let's delve into how it can serve as a catalyst for idea generation:

  • Embrace Curiosity: Recognizing conscious ignorance sparks curiosity and the desire to seek answers. This can lead to brainstorming sessions, research, and exploration in areas where you feel there are gaps in your knowledge.

  • Break Free from Conventions: The visible knowledge layer often contains established norms and best practices. By acknowledging the presence of unconscious ignorance, you can break free from conventional thinking and explore innovative ideas beyond the known boundaries.

  • Collaborate and Diversify: To tap into the vast potential of the unconscious ignorance layer, collaborate with others who bring diverse perspectives and expertise. Different viewpoints can uncover hidden opportunities and spark creativity.

  • Continuous Learning: Make a commitment to lifelong learning. The more you learn, the more you become aware of what you don't know. This continuous pursuit of knowledge can be a constant source of new ideas and insights.

  • Adaptation to Change: In a dynamic business environment, adaptability is key. Idea generation fosters the agility needed to respond to evolving market conditions and customer preferences.


The Iceberg of Ignorance serves as a powerful metaphor for understanding the vast landscape of knowledge and the untapped potential it holds. By acknowledging our conscious and unconscious ignorance, we can harness this concept as a tool for idea generation and innovation. Embrace curiosity, challenge conventions, collaborate with others, and commit to continuous learning, and you'll find yourself navigating uncharted waters, discovering new ideas, and driving progress in your chosen field. Remember, the greatest innovations often lie hidden beneath the surface, waiting to be uncovered.

If you're looking to implement a mobile tool for idea generation, we've got you covered. Falcony | Ideas is easy-to-use, fast to set up, has customisable workflows, vast integration possibilities and more. Contact us for more information.

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