The idea to remember today is “Always Kill Your Own Darlings”.
It is a concept also known as pre-mortem or prospective hindsight which was first described by the psychologist Gary Klein.
Danny Kahneman, the Nobel Prize winner, who always recommends the pre-mortem technique explains it as follows:
”You all know what the post-mortem is. Whenever there's a disaster, some experts try to figure out what went wrong and why it happened. In the pre-mortem, you look ahead and you try to figure out all the things that could go wrong, and then you try to figure out what you can do to prevent those things from happening or to minimize the damage.”
WHY is it important and why is it working?
People usually fall in love with their own ideas. To prevent this from happening it’s necessary to add a destructive step to the problem-solving process to find weaknesses before they happen or create damage.
WHAT is the problem the technique solves?
People usually try to be creative and critical at the same time. Having a destructive step as part of the process helps to remember that it’s okay to simply be creative for some time since there will be a destructive step after that.
WHEN can it be used?
The pre-mortem should be used in every single process of solving problems. Whenever you think you have come to a good result, simply try to think about ways to destroy your idea in order to make it more robust.
Ask yourself: “It’s a year later, I really tried hard to make this idea successful but it failed dramatically. Why did it fail?”
HOW to apply the technique at work or home?
Think about some catastrophic events that could happen to you. For example:
You could potentially lose your keys somewhere at home. Now before it happens, designate a place around the home for things that are easily lost.
You could lose your passport or other documents on a business trip. Now, take a picture of your credit cards, your passport, send it to yourself so it's in the cloud. If these things are lost or stolen, you can still access the pictures.
Find some more examples in this great TED-talk that show how to stay calm when you know you’ll be stressed.
Another exercise is to ask your team to imagine they’re starting a new company with the only goal of being better than your current business. They have all the money and materials they need, and they have to describe how they will succeed. Let them pay attention to all the details of this future business.
Trying to destroy your own business will allow you to detect your weaknesses and adopt new traits you’ve been too shy to execute.
Now tell me, where will you try to use this approach in your life?