Complex areas don't have clear answers

In complex areas, there are rarely hard-and fast answers, because the questions are rarely about facts. Even if somebody starts with “what”, they usually want to know “why,” and things get much murkier there. As a result, the intellectually honest answer in IA is usually “it depends” or “I’m not sure.”

What we can do is articulate what it depends on or what would make us more sure.


Russ Ackoff. U.S. Navy Two Day Training in Thinking, Understanding, and Learning .

Information is in questions like “who,” what” and “which.”

Knowledge is in the answers to “how to,” instructions give knowledge.

Understanding is in the answers to questions that begin with “why.”

Kalil, Thomas. “Policy Entrepreneurship at the White House: Getting Things Done in Large Organizations.” Innovations: Technology, Governance, Globalization, vol. 11, no. 3–4, July 2017, pp. 4–21.

In politics, the “intellectually-honest answer is either, ‘It depends,’ or ‘I’m not sure.” (p. 5)

Khononov, Vladik. Learning Domain-Driven Design . 1st edition, O’Reilly Media, Inc., 2021.

“It depends” is true answer but not practical. You have to figure out what it depends on.