Project Premortem: Removing startup stress
Often, entrepreneurs fall into the trap of anxiety, constantly worrying about the unknown factors that could cause their venture to crash and burn. Said anxiety not only leads to a negative state of mind, but also an irrational course of thought (due to the release of cortisol into the brain)that can cloud decision making and can potentially cause a startup to get off course.
In his TED Talk, neuroscientist Dr. Daniel J. Levitin explains this stress-induced cortisol effect. He also explains how to combat the anxiety using a simple mental exercise, he calls a “premortem”. A premortem is the hypothetical opposite of a postmortem- the analysis done after a negative outcome occurs. In a business situation, if a project fails, executives will gather in the postmortem to look logically at the facts and try to find out what went wrong. Dr. Levitin argues that when doing premortem thinking, one should assume the logical worst, imagining the reasons the worst would happen, so its possible to prep for the future for any situation.
In a study by Harvard Business Review, the process of a project premortem is described as a session including all concerned individuals where they discuss all possible reasons why a project might fail. While the approach might seem of pessimistic nature, it offers immunity to future possible thought clouds. The approach also raises the morale of the team, due to the raised sense of importance to the whole company.
“Everyone experiences anxiety at some point but the degree of this anxiety varies greatly from individual to individual. During my time as a tech founder I experienced this profoundly at a personal level and also saw it far too frequently in others whose lives were essentially taken over by anxiety,” Adams said.
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With the high levels of stress associated with the startup culture, entrepreneurs should look into solutions that prep them for the future and help them maintain a level head when faced with difficult roadblocks or when managing the unexpected. Stress and anxiety should not be ignored, as their effects can be much more damaging than a few restless nights or discomfort.