Pre-mortem: how to anticipate failure with prospective hindsight

Most people are familiar with post-mortem documentation, where team members come together at the conclusion of a project to record what went well and what didn’t. Fewer people have performed a pre-mortem before the start of a project. A pre-mortem is an exercise where we imagine that a project has failed, and where we work …

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How to evaluate the validity and reliability of your mental models

Mental models are shortcuts for reasoning. They are a set of ideas and beliefs that we consciously or unconsciously form based on our experiences to shape our representation of how the world works. While mental models are extremely useful to make decisions in times of uncertainty, they are still shortcuts—which can be harmful if we …

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Temporal discounting: the battle between present and future self

As humans, we tend to favour our present self at the expense of our future self. Our present self will eat an extra piece of cake, skip a training session, drink too much, stay up late, or procrastinate; our future self is left dealing with the consequences. This phenomenon is called temporal discounting. The further …

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From closed mind to open mind

Do you consider yourself an open-minded person? Most people would say yes. Which, paradoxically, shows a form of closed-mindedness by failing to consider your own shortcomings.  Closed-mindedness in the inability or difficulty to consider different ideas or opinions. While it is easy to spot in others, we are all guilty of closed-mindedness depending on the …

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The Dunning–Kruger effect: you don’t know what you don’t know

Why do ignorant folks tend to overestimate the extent of their knowledge? How do incompetent people often seem to be unaware of how deficient their expertise is? Turns out, we are not very good at evaluating ourselves accurately. And one of the most obvious manifestations of this psychological deficiency is the Dunning–Kruger effect, the cognitive …

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Managing risk with the NASA Risk Matrix

“It’s not rocket science!” people often say. Well, sometimes, projects can be so complex, making the right decision does feel akin to rocket science. Who better to turn to than one of the biggest space agencies in the world to learn how to manage risk? There are few organisations working on projects as complex as …

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The art and science of mind wandering

“Sorry, I spaced out, what were you saying?” you ask your friend. It has happened to all of us: we are physically in place, while our mind is in another one. Mind wandering, while it can take many forms, is an experience of thought shared by all of humanity. Some people see it as a …

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Productive cognitive load: make the most of your working memory

There’s only so much we can hold into our working memory—the system our brain uses to temporarily hold information while we manipulate it. The amount of working memory we use at any given moment is called the cognitive load. While both are theoretical concepts used in psychology and neuroscience, they have profound implications when it …

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Thinking in maps: from the Lascaux caves to modern knowledge graphs

What do hieroglyphs, flowcharts, road signs, and knowledge graphs have in common? They’re all thinking maps. Humans have been thinking in maps since the very first symbolic communication systems. While thinking in maps may first bring to mind the idea of cartography, a map does not need to be geographic—it can be any symbolic depiction …

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Writing as a thinking tool

Writing has many science-based benefits. It can help you develop your self-authorship, reflect and create metacognitive routines through journaling, and has been shown to make you happier and healthier. For something that’s completely free, it’s a pretty good deal. Beyond these benefits, writing is also a thinking tool. Not only for personal management, but for …

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