Leaders of theological schools take risks in the name of fulfilling their missions. New initiatives require much planning and praying, and sometimes it's difficult for a board members to speak up with doubts about a proposed initiative, especially if the plan is gaining momentum, or if a key stakeholder has voiced support.
Then, after the decision is made, everyone seems to remember that they were in favor of it -- even if the decision turns out to have negative consequences.
How can seminary leaders address this dynamic? Daniel Kahneman, who won the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics, suggests a technique called the premortem. The term comes from his colleague Gary Klein. A premortem is a thought exercise with a practical purpose. The time for a premortem is before an organization makes a significant decision.
During a premortem, people who have been part of the planning meet and imagine that the decision has already been made and that plans went spectacularly wrong. Each participant spends 10 minutes writing a history of the disaster. The scenarios are discussed and kept. "The main virtue of the premortem" Kahneman writes, "is that it legitimizes doubts" (Thinking, Fast and Slow, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011, p. 265).
Theological schools want to make good decisions. The premortem may be a technique that your school can use to unleash creativity and improve the quality of decisions.