Preparation beats prediction 

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Hands down my favourite workshop output yet. 

I’ll retain some mystery on what that was all about – but I can tell you what the goal of that workshop was: preparing for the worst. 

Sounds dire doesn’t it?

Not the way I see it. Working out what might go wrong is one of my favourite strategy conversations. Getting real about what stands between us and our big goals is one of the most important steps to move us from thinking and dreaming into doing and delivering. 

We’re so weird about risk, though.  I get it. The words 'risk management' inspire equal parts boredom and confusion in me too.

We overcomplicate risk. We treat it as a negative, we try so desperately to predict likelihood that we bring in dodgy maths and traffic lights.

Even worse: sometimes we totally avoid conversations about what we might need to risk on the path to greatness - which leads to crappy decisions. 

Facebook reminded me of this little tidbit the other day. 

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When I was pregnant with my youngest daughter, my then five and ten year old daughters engaged in a bit of scenario planning around what might happen if I was to die. (Charming kids, eh). They had it all figured out – they would walk the baby to daycare on their way to school, Bailey (my eldest) would get a job at McDonalds once her pocket money ran out, she'd bring leftovers home for dinner every night, and they’d have a bang old time.  

(To be clear – the cat’s name was Milo, and they weren’t going to drink him.) 

Smart kids.

There is incredible value in talking about big-picture worst case scenarios - which goes well beyond the surface of risk management. Thinking like this helps us to unearth fears and assumptions, to have unsaid conversations and to build confidence in managing inevitable setbacks. 

“We suffer more in imagination than in reality”

– Seneca 

Tim Ferris made the idea of ‘fear-setting’ trendy, but researchers had figured out the value of a premortem (or ‘prospective hindsight’) at the University of Colorado in the 80s. Turns out, this kind of prelaunch risk analysis heads off some of our silly optimism bias and actually boosts the odds we will succeed.  

Of course, as with most things, the Stoics had it nailed thousands of years prior. Nice one, Seneca. 

“Our comforting conviction that the world makes sense rests on a secure foundation: our almost unlimited ability to ignore our ignorance.”

– Daniel Kahneman 

Humans are inherently very poor assessors when it comes to risk. It’s not our fault, we’ve got lots of fears and biases that hold us back from being objective. We overvalue the risk of unlikely things that we’ve heard a lot about, yet we’re stupidly optimistic about the likelihood of our own success.

We even pay through the nose to insure ourselves for things that are extremely unlikely, while remaining totally exposed to the things that actually take us down. 

Prediction is not the ticket - we can't trust ourselves to do it accurately, especially not for the vague, uncertain, big picture stuff.

Preparation, however is very important. Once we let go of the idea that we can predict what's most likely with any accuracy, we can focus on what the biggest impacts to prepare for might be instead.

TL;DR: Less guessing, less fear, more gutsy conversations and good planning, eh? We've got goals to get on and achieve.  

Til next week, 

Are you suffering more in imagination than in reality? Or worse - not confronting reality at all? Does your team ‘get’ risk? 

You may want to join my free webinar on strategic risk next Tuesday – link here - where I give my positive take on doing risk well.