The Worst Case Scenario: Why It Helps to Prepare for the Worst

Two approaches to preventing a sticky situation

Darren Matthews


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Thinking about a worst case scenario takes me to a time I’d rather forget.

A family walk isn’t supposed to be the moment you regret not preparing for the worst. And yet, here I was standing in front of a plateau of bogy marshland with no clear path through it. It was getting dark and beginning to rain. We-my wife and two kids-were not prepared for this. With preparation, I may well have considered this outcome as our worst case scenario.

A thousand feet up, high above the village with no waterproof coats, torches, water, and no map or compass. The phone signal was non-existent, and the battery was running low. No one could have been more unprepared than we were.

Not only were we lost, but we were cold, wet, and scared.

What does worst case scenario mean?

Consider a situation where everything goes wrong. But rather than experience it, you imagine it-and capture it, hoping to avoid it in the future. This is the worst case scenario. A vision of the future you’d rather not have to experience.

Experience has taught us we can avoid the worst of outcomes.

“I am prepared for the worst, but hope for the best.”-Benjamin Disraeli

Considering the bad outcome offers opportunities.

We get to consider what might cause such a difficult situation. But we also get the chance to prepare for such an outcome, making its consequences easier to live with. We can, as Benjamin Disraeli said: “Prepare for the worst but hope for the best.”

History offers us many ways to consider the prevention of such predicaments. One is a motto from the scouts, and the other is a business concept called the pre-mortem.

Be Prepared

The Scouts live by a famous motto: “Be Prepared”.

Being prepared means being ready for any potential outcome, both good and bad. Baden-Powell writes in Scouting for Boys: “by having thought out beforehand any accident or situation that might occur, so…



Darren Matthews

I’m utterly curious about decision-making | Sharing lessons learned from the thousands of decisions I’ve studied and made | Founder