Saturday, June 16, 2012

Premortem - A Tool for Your Decision-Making

Most of us are affected by overconfidence sometimes in some part of lives. As a stark example, most drivers respond that they are better than the average drivers. In a typical poll, the rate is whopping 90%. So, they will drive as they will, because they are natural born drivers, and cause accidents. Is there a way to curb this overconfidence?

Run a premortem. When you plan for a project, whether it be a pre-project planning or fine-tuning in the course of action, take a time and think about what might kill the project. Then you can also think about ways to prevent the failure you imagined, before it actually happens.

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman describes the idea of premortem, and credits Gary Klein for it. Kahneman says premortem enables us to overcome groupthink, the automatic flow into consensus  about which most individuals in the group are not really enthusiastic. The consensus from groupthink is more of an acquiescence rather than a willing agreement. This stems from the lazy, easy, and intuitive thinking of the individuals in the process - which is called System 1 thinking by Kahneman.

System 1 quickly fetches a solution from intuition. System 2, which is about deliberate thinking and brooding, will occasionally check the validity of System 1. However, most of the time, System 2 does not run the audit too deeply. If the readily available solution makes enough sense, that's it. Therefore, we end up with tons of problems that come from not thinking deeply enough. Overconfidence and groupthink are examples of the problems presented by System 1's shallow solutions.

Run a premortem. Think about possible ways your project can fail. Then think about how to avoid them.

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