Saturday, May 3, 2008

CSI Before the Bodies

"In The Power of Intuition,Gary Klein offers a number of tools and exercises, like the premortem before a new project start up, for strengthening our intuitive knowledge."
Robert Giloth,Nonprofit Leadership

Klein defines intuition as the ways we "translate experience into action." I think of it as finely-honed art of "gut reactions," signalling that something is amiss and deserves attention.

Too often we jump into innovative, or not so innovative, community economic development projects without a good gut check, because we can, money blinds us, or because our passions, sense of expertise or commitment rule. Maybe deep down we don't think stuff will work anyway to solve the big problems. So who cares? That's bad faith.

Klein's premortem exercise helps us strengthen our intuitive abilities and, as importantly, our abilities to anticipate what might go wrong so that we might develop viable adaptation strategies. Lack of anticipation and adaptation account for a lot of constructive mistakes.

A premortem is not just another obscure word for feasibility study or business plan. You've already done those and gotten the green light. A premortem involves asking what could go wrong that we didn't anticipate or get right in the first place -- customer preferences, economic conditions, staffing, partnerships, timing, or policy changes. Most importantly, now what?

I have the kind of temperment that feels comfortable dwelling for a moment, not too long, pondering worst case scenarios. But thinking about what could go wrong can have its own problems, like giving up, second guessing, etc.

The trick is how to generate energy and focus for high performing implementation while thinking about problems. This sounds like it should be part of a definition of leadership.

Anybody had experiences with premortems, or something similar in community economic development?

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