Inspired by my second reading of Think Like a Rocket Scientist by Ozan Varol, here is a list of things to help you work through the complexity of leading a team and running a business.
- Try to prove your hypothesis wrong – We, too often, try to prove that we are right when the best thing to do to get it right is to do the opposite. If you cannot prove your idea wrong then you may be on to something. If you try to prove it right you will likely hear only hear what you want to hear and disregard the rest.
- Kill your darlings – Don’t become emotionally attached to anything except other beings. Ideas, products, projects, artifices, etc. are all up for scrutiny and challenge. Asking, “If I/we were to start this from scratch knowing what I/we know now, would I/we do it this way again?” is a powerful question.
- Think like your greatest rival – Trying a thought experiment where you come up with ways to put yourself out of business as if you were your strongest rival is a useful and helpful exercise to do at least once/year. Inviting the right people to this is crucial. They must be knowledgeable as well as have the ability to step back and see things from an outside perspective.
- Ask yourself, “What would I do if I am wrong?” – A pre-mortem, especially to a crucial project, is essential for not being surprised by a bad outcome. “What if this turned out to be a disaster, what would/could have gone wrong.” is another great question to contemplate with the right team.
- Reason from first principles – Keep asking what is causing the problem that is right in front of us until you can no longer come up with an answer. You may just have found the underlying principle that you must understand to prevent future problems from arising in that context.
- Focus on the outcome, not the tactics – Our brain drives us to the “how” quickly. Try to stay curious a little longer and ensure that you have identified and aligned on the ideal outcome before beginning to work on how to get there.
- When no one disagrees, adjourn until someone has the good sense to – Enough said here.
- Perform safe to fail tests – When dealing with complex decisions where there is no predictable history to leverage, testing and flying and flying and testing are important to limit the fallibility of being human.
More on decision-making starting here.
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