Orders of ignorance are not, as the phrase might suggest, a way to angrily express what a co-worker tried to get you to do on a project. Rather, it’s a way of expressing what kind of “risks” people face in projects—stemming, as Steven Lott puts it, from bad management and ignorance.
Lott categorizes ignorance into 4 orders of ignorance:
- Oth order of ignorance: things we know (which are either true or untrue)
- 1st order of ignorance: things we don’t know
- 2nd order of ignorance: things we didn’t know to ask (at the beginning of the project, leading to being considered a risk)
- 3rd order of ignorance: no process for managing ignorance (either ignoring the problem or not being flexible to change)
However, the article goes on to explain how to mitigate each level, which includes fact checking (0th order), contingency planning (1st order), change management process (2nd order), agile methodology (3rd order), and realizing risks stem from bad management (4th order).