I heard this story from creative thinking expert Jurgen Wolff. Steve Loranger, CEO of ITT Industries, shared this technique with Business 2.0: ”If you’re working on an important contract, a ‘must-win’ program, give your team a much shorter deadline than actually exists. Afterward you tell your team, ‘I just got a phone call from the buyer today and he told us that we lost – he didn’t tell us why.’ You ask them why they think you lost. You’ll be amazed at how they come up with things that they hadn’t thought about before…as soon as you capture what your team is guessing, you use those points to rework your proposal.”
You might consider this idea to be somewhat underhand but it does seem to be very lateral and it might be highly effective in improving your bid. It works on the basis that after a failure we can critically and constructively examine what went wrong. You can adapt this idea and apply it to any project even if you’re working on it on your own. Imagine the project is done and released to the target audience. Now imagine that this group or person turns it down. Why might that happen? What features might he or she want that aren’t there? Make notes of the ideas that occur to you and use them to strengthen your project. Anticipate all the ways in which you could fail and then mitigate or eliminate them.
Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader published by Kogan-Page.