Don’t wait til the idea is dead – make better decisions with a project pre mortem

Don’t wait til the idea is dead – make better decisions with a project pre mortem

I came across a great idea to address bias in decision making by a psychologist called Gary Klein. We’re all familiar with the idea of a project post mortem to establish what’s gone well and not so well with a project but what about the idea of a pre mortem?

Research conducted at the Wharton School and University of Colorado identified something they called ‘prospective hindsight’—imagining that an event has already occurred – and they found this can increase a person’s ability to correctly identify what happens in the future by 30%.

When trying to generate creative ideas, perhaps in a group brainstorming session, it helps to structure your session so that when you are generating ideas for the first time, you avoid dissenting with each other in order to generate a volume of options. You can decide whether they are workable as the next stage. But when it comes to planning dissent is a really useful way to assess the pros and cons of an idea, evaluate whether any risks are associated and to find holes in a plan. This is where the pre mortem fits in.

Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Gary Klein an expert in decision making, explains further: “Unlike a typical critiquing session, in which project team members are asked what might go wrong, the premortem operates on the assumption that the “patient” has died, and so asks what did go wrong. The team members’ task is to generate plausible reasons for the project’s failure.”

The idea is similar to Edward De Bono’s ‘black hatted’ thinking as part of his famous six thinking hats technique – spotting all the pitfalls and issues with a project – but it isolates the negative thinking into one-stage.

Read more bout Gary Klein and how to run a project premortem in this Harvard Business Review article.

If you’re interested in how to evaluate your ideas check out How to be a creative ninja open training or in-house course here.

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