I just read about something called a “premortem” and found it intriguing. It’s a technique devised by psychologist Gary Klein to help groups make better decisions. Unfortunately as we all know, groups are subject to groupthink and overconfidence. Once an idea is put on the table no one likes to express their doubts, be disloyal to the team or play the role of a pessimistic naysayer. Hence a premortem technique will help.
The idea is that you get the team together that is considering the proposal and instruct them to: 1) imagine that it’s been two years since they went ahead with the decision; 2) that it has been a complete disaster, and 3) that they should take five to ten minutes to write a brief history of the disaster. This exercise permits, or encourages, individuals to air their doubts and spot weaknesses in the proposed project. It can also highlight strengths that may be present.
In any event, groupthink overconfidence (also known as hubris) can be thwarted. The unknown unknowns may become clearer and decisions become better and more rational.
What a good idea! Would that it could be initiated in those institutions we belong to and suffer from—which hardly need to remain nameless. A proactive premortem would be so much better than our usual moans and groaning, “what were they thinking?” Any suggestions or examples come to mind?