Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns

I took out my wheely bins this morning and since we have been on holidays I couldn’t remember if it was recycling week or green bin week.  I looked up the street and saw that most people had put out their recycling bin so I did the same. It turns out that nobody knew that it was green bin week.  Everyone had copied the first person to put their bins out, who had in turn just made a guess, leading to a whole street full of smelly bins.

The same effect is remarkably prevalent throughout all facets of life.  It is impossible to know everything, so we copy the next person if we don’t have the answer.  Mining is full of examples of convenient but sub-optimal solutions due to the distances between sites and confidentiality constraints. Many of our practises are passed down through habit or word of mouth without being rigorously evaluated.

Just one example that comes to mind is bulk explosive product selection, where many sites waste a lot of money on expensive products that often don’t produce better results.  The good news is that there are usually some big unrealised gains available which are easily identified when you commission external experts to conduct regular reviews. Of all the reviews that I have conducted, the payback is regularly more than 1000 times the cost of the review.

*Image source: AZ Quotes