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Counteracting the Danger of a Good Idea | Conducting a Premortem

Written by: Bill Sherman on Thursday, 2 May 2013, 4:27 PM

Good ideas can be dangerous. They can actually diminish our ability to create impact.

When we see a good idea, it’s easy to quickly fall in love. We swoon. We emphasize the idea’s best features, and we overlook its risks and faults. Soon, things begin to fall apart (quite unexpectedly), and we wonder “what happened?”

If that story sounds like similar to a romance that seemed oh-so-promising but eventually failed, you’re quite right. We can swiftly fall in love with ideas as easily as we fall in love with people.

According to Nobel-laureate psychologist Daniel Kahneman, we’re hardwired for overconfidence–which causes us to treat good ideas like they were great ideas. We spend less time examining ideas critically, and we can even fall into groupthink, because the entire group has fallen in love with an idea.

If your decision is a simple one, such as choosing a place to eat lunch, then a good idea is probably “good enough.” However, if you’re starting a business, launching a strategic initiative, or taking a major risk, then you need to look carefully at your choice.

Daniel Kahneman, in his bestselling book, Thinking Fast and Slow, offers the following activity (designed by Gary Klein)  to reduce the risk of overconfidence.  He calls it the premortem activity.

 

“Imagine that we are a year into the future. We implemented the plan as it now exists. The outcome was a disaster. Please take 5 minutes to write a brief history of that disaster.”

When you have a good idea, the premortem allows you to identify and prepare for risk. It helps you polish a good idea into a great idea. Otherwise, if you move forward without critical reflection, you may be conducting a painful postmortem later on.

2 Responses to “Counteracting the Danger of a Good Idea | Conducting a Premortem”

  1. Will Your Project Create Impact? | Test It in Sixty Minutes or Less | aha-moments Says:

    […] Home&nbsp&nbsp&nbsp&nbspContact Me « Counteracting the Danger of a Good Idea | Conducting a Premortem […]

    May 4th, 2013 2:27 pm

  2. Avoicing the Mediocrity Trap | aha-moments Says:

    […] If you’re smart, you may simply take success for granted. In school, you may have earned great grades without having to work very hard. The Mediocrity Trap occurs when you become intellectually overconfident. […]

    May 16th, 2013 9:07 am

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