What could go wrong in your business idea?

This business idea insight came from a lecture with Matthias Vatter, entrepreneur from Bern, with the Team 4 at Kaospilots Switzerland. The simple question “What could go wrong in your business idea?”, simply called as premortal question, can raise important big questions when developing projects and materializing concepts onto business ideas.

It helps to talk about potential problems in a constructive way without get lost on moaning and complaining under a victim role playing. Then, how do we do the premortal question exercise? From the question “What could go wrong in your business idea?“:

  • Start to brainstorm everything that could happen in the worst case scenario when starting up a business or developing a project. Write on post-its everything that comes to your mind.
  • What were the emerging patterns on the brainstorming process? Group the post-its onto emerging patterns and commonalities.
  • What insights come from the emerging patterns? What are steps ahead?


business idea
Simply brainstorm everything that could go wrong on your business or project idea!

Let’s take example of an online wood shop. What could go wrong on this business idea? What could happen for this online wood shop not work? Some examples:

  • A client could say “I need to sense and see the furnitures. Why would I buy furnitures online?“;
  • The product delivered was totally different from what was promised;
  • The woods used to make the furnitures were bought illegaly;
  • Another company could sue the wood shop for violating its copyrights;
  • The delivered delayed its deadline;
  • The government imposed a law that forbid to extract woods.


And these few examples could go long ahead. Then, what patterns can we identify from such examples given above? Let’s check:

emerging patterns premortal question business idea
The emerging patterns that could come from the example of a wood shop. What else could go wrong?

Looking back to the spread sheet above showcasing the emerging patterns, we can see that the ideas previously brainstormed can be grouped on “Delivery“, “Client’s preferences” and “Legal and copyrights aspects“. And on the pattern “Delivery”, the business idea of this wood shop would fail due to not delivering the promised product and delayed deliveries. And so on!

What is possible to do to avoid such bad scenario? How these patterns can be converted onto strategies and actions to avoid it? Premortal question is a really insightful exercise!


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