When asked ‘What’s the most dangerous part of going the moon?’ Neil Armstrong answered ‘Anything we haven’t thought of.’

It’s always the things we didn’t imagine that are our undoing, so it’s handy to have some sort of checklist of potential dangers to prepare for.

The old acronym ‘PEST’ reminds us of the four classic types of hazard:

POLITICAL Who gets the credit… or the blame? How will it look to the public… and who must look good no matter what happens? etc…

ECONOMIC Where’s the money coming from? Who pays who for what? How will that change everyone’s behaviour? etc…

SOCIAL Who benefits … and at whose cost? Who is disadvantaged? etc…


TECHNICAL Does it actually work? Is it compatible with existing technologies, processes and infrastructure? Who fixes it if it breaks? etc…

We call that a ‘pre-mortem’ but we prefer a slightly longer version, ‘PESTLE’ which adds:

LEGAL Is it against any laws you may not have considered? Would it change any?


ENVIRONMENTAL Is it sustainable in its use of materials, energy and natural resources? Are its processes clean and green? What waste products are generated? What happens to it once it’s obsolete?

We’ve recently encountered ‘STEEPLE’ which adds the all-important

ETHICAL Is it fair? Is it right? What big new questions does it raise?

A detailed pre-mortem will expose most of the major weaknesses in your idea but may leave you a little discouraged, which is why we’ve created a second list of questions:


Questions we haven’t answered (or even asked) yet?

Issues we’ve already solved somewhere before?

Challenges to be addressed?

Mistakes to be prevented?

Details to be considered?

Risks to be mitigated?

Partnerships to be forged?

Problems to be repaired?

Bugs to be ironed out?

Once you’ve thought of all the ways it can go wrong… and all the things you can do to make sure it doesn’t… you’ve probably thought of everything.

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Written by Jason Clarke

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Celebrated author, adventurer, gold medal Olympian and popular TV chef; Jason is none of these things. He is, however, one of the most sought-after creative minds in the country. As founder of Minds at Work, he’s helped people ‘think again’ since the end of the last century, working with clients across Australia in virtually every industry and government sector on issues ranging from creativity and trouble shooting to culture change and leadership.