Our first instinct when we look at a new project is to dream of its potential success. If you’re writing a book, you dream of Oprah one day calling and whisking you off to her show. You’ll be on the bestsellers lists for months, and it’s all about beaches and vintage typewriters, doing your craft in between swimming in warm waters.
While this is certainly an entertaining dream, it quite obviously bears no relation to reality and it harms your project more than it helps it succeed. Instead of dreaming about that fanciful day of success, start by digging into how the project could fail. Here’s how this mindset can help.
It resets your happiness level
The first thing that thinking about failure in your project does is to reset your level of happiness. It’s much too easy to fall into a spiral of doom and gloom. You think that if the project fails, it all ends with you on the street, living in a fridge box because everyone has seen you for the fraud you know you are.
This is a lie of course, and by planning out failure we inoculate ourselves against this doom-and-gloom mentality. You realize that if your book doesn’t launch as you dream, the worst that will happen is that only a few people will purchase it and you’ll have added to the endless amounts of unknown books out there. You’ll have to keep your current job, but that’s not so terrible, it’s just not the ideal dream. I’ve had products that no one bought, and I’ve had products since that many people have purchased. In both scenarios, I was totally fine and kept going.
It helps you build a good plan
The second big benefit of planning for failure is that it helps you plan for the things that could go wrong. Your product may not sell well because not enough people know about it. The solution to that is a good marketing strategy, not just something thrown together haphazardly after you’ve got the product finished.
Maybe no one will purchase it because it’s just a bad product. You can find that out if you do a bit of market research first.
Way too many people start a project with only optimism and then don’t have a plan for the things that might go wrong. By thinking about as many of these potential issues as you can up front, you’ll be much better prepared when thing start to go poorly. No, you won’t catch every bad thing that could happen, but even having 20% of them covered up front will go a long way to helping the project succeed.
It helps you find out where to learn more
Another benefit to planning for the failure of a project is that you figure out where you need to go to learn more. In our example above, as you start to plan out a proper marketing strategy, maybe you find out that you really don’t even know what that looks like.
With that knowledge in hand, you can either find someone that does know what a good marketing plan looks like to handle it for you or dig in and learn how to put together a good marketing plan yourself.
This is also true at the end of the project when you do a post-mortem. You can look back and see where the real trouble came from and then go back to your original failure planning to see why you missed these areas. Then, the next time you start a project and plan for failure, you’re going to have a better idea of what may fail and you’ll be able to plan for it accordingly.
The longer you keep up this cycle of planning for failure, the more likely it is that your projects will succeed. The longer you keep planning for the failure of projects, the less you’ll be affected when the odd project does fail — it won’t be the end of the world.
Take a look at what you’re working on right now and start planning how it could fail so that you have a higher chance of success.
Featured photo credit: aigle_dore via flickr.com