Prepare to be Wrong
To make wise choices without knowing what the future holds, we need to stretch our sense of what the future might bring, consider any possibilities, both good and bad. Bookending is considering the extremes of what could happen. (pg 199-201)
For when you have a reasonable idea about future possibilities:
- Always ask prospective hindsight questions. Instead of “How likely is it for an Asia American to be president in 2020? What would need to happen?”, it’s better to ask, “Imaging it is 2020 and there is an Asian American president. What are the reasons this happened.” (pg 202)
- Conduct a “premortem”. Ask, “It’s a year from now. Our decision failed. Why?” Imagine the future death of your project. Have every team member write down reasons for the failure. Read them out loud. Adapt your plans to forestall as any as possible; use this for worthwhile (vs. worthless) risk mitigation. (pg 203-205)
- Conduct a “preparade”. Imagine your wildest version of success. Have everyone answer, “How do we ensure we’re ready for it?” (pg 206)
For when the future is completely unknown or change will be gradual:
- Deal with overconfidence. Use a buffer or safety factor. And anticipate problems by having someone in a related domain or similar experience give a realistic preview of a worst-case scenario. (pg 209 cf)
- Set a tripwire with hard numbers or other indicators (e.g. rock band that asked for bowl of M&Ms without brown M&Ms; if they found them, they knew intricate stage wiring might be wrong). “We will reconsider when…” needs to be written down at the time of decision. (pg. 226) “Tripwires encourage risk taking by letting us carve out a “safe space” for experimentation. (pg 231)
- Give yourself a made-up deadline. (pg 227)
- Create tripwires that are triggered by pattern recognition. Publicize a protocol that permits/encourages response when something doesn’t look right. Or, the opposite: “If you see people using our product in a way we haven’t anticipated, let’s talk.” (pg 233-336)
- Establish partitions or mini-boundaries. This is effective mostly in issues involving self-control e.g. use a smaller bowl for chips so you consciously get up to refill.
Some closing thoughtst that I believe address the fears of most executives in implementing this new process!
- “Process isn’t glamorous. But the confidence it can provide is precious. Trusting a process can permit us to take bigger risks, to make bolder choices. …We should make sure people are able to perceive that the process is just…Even if the outcome goes against us, our confidence in the process is critical.” (pg 245, 253)
- “The process need not take a long time to be effective. Even if you’ve only got 45 minutes to consider an important decision, you can accomplish a lot: Run the Vanishing Options Test to see if you might overlook a great alternative. Call someone who’s solved your problem before. Ask yourself, What would I tell my best friend to do? Or what would my successor do? Gather three friends and run a premortem.” (pg 251)