Make Lesser Unforced Errors
September 15, 2021
During the US Open Championship final a couple of days back, the sports channel shared an interesting statistic on the number of winners and the unforced errors scored by each player. The big difference between the winner and the loser was in the % of unforced errors. This statistic indicated that Djokovic lost the match due to more unforced errors while Daniil Medvedev won because of the winners he hit and the lesser mistakes he made.
Looking at this statistic spurred the memory of an interesting decision-making model called Inversion.
Inversion is the idea of trying to solve complex problems by looking at them backward, where we try to envision the negative things that could go wrong and make plans to manage them before they occur. The ancient Stoics had a nice term to capture this idea called Premeditation Malorum- meaning “Premeditation of evils.”
In our daily lives, much like in the tennis match, we all tend to focus on hitting outright winners. We make plans to improve efficiency by launching ourselves headlong into new goals, habits, and initiatives. We think doing something new will help us get better outcomes.
However, if we step back and invert the thinking for a moment and ask ourselves-“what are the things that can go wrong with what I am trying to do? In what way can I get derailed in executing my plans? What are the inefficiencies that are there which, if not managed, can derail me?”- the answers we give ourselves will help us prepare and plan for the inefficiencies and impediments that we don’t consider when embarking on any new activity.
As an example, through inversion thinking, if you realize you are not good at attention to detail or managing complexity, you can take appropriate help manage your blind spots.
If you are launching a new project, ask yourself what are the many ways the project can get derailed- Team members not being aligned, wastage, incorrect market estimation, etc.- and plan for them upfront.
I don’t think Djokovic would have won the game even if he had made less unforced errors, because Medvedev was the better player on the day. But it would have made the game more exciting and less one-sided !!
Similarly, imagining all that can go wrong and planning for that upfront won’t guarantee success, but it will undoubtedly improve the odds in your favor. Because, you will make lesser unforced errors.