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Brainhack by Neil Pavitt

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44 Plan a Pre-Mortem

“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.”

Winston Churchill

There's a lot of talk these days about failing. Failing's good. Fail and fail fast. The idea, obviously, is that it's better to make mistakes early on and learn from them. But why not learn before you make the mistakes?

That's the idea behind the pre-mortem, created by Gary Klein, behavioural economist and psychologist, famous for his work in the field of naturalistic decision-making. It's very simple really. You imagine a time in the future after your business/project/idea has been launched. And in this imaginary future your idea has been a complete failure. “Unlike a typical critiquing session, in which project team members are asked what might go wrong, the pre-mortem operates on the assumption that the ‘patient' has died.”

Now you're probably thinking: Isn't this very negative? Aren't all these business successes started by people who are really positive go-getters who believe nothing is impossible and failure is not an option?

That's true to a degree, but also projects that are a success are also the ones that don't have any little chinks in their armour.

Only 50% of businesses survive the first five years. So it's important to make your idea as good and as strong as it can be.

Again this exercise isn't just for big projects like starting a new business; it could just be ...

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