Thursday, January 18, 2024


India's lunar mission, Chandrayaan-3 (a Sanskrit word meaning 'Moon vehicle'), recently achieved a successful landing near the moon's south pole on August 23, igniting a wave of enthusiasm in the country and among science enthusiasts worldwide.

The preceding lunar endeavor, Chandrayaan 2, encountered failure during its 2019 moon landing attempt. The failure's causes were broadly attributed to three factors: the five engines of the lander generating excessive thrust, a software glitch, and the constraints of a small landing site.

What sets ISRO's approach apart this time?

Just days before Chandrayaan-3's launch, ISRO chairman S Somnath stated-

'Rather than designing solely for success, ISRO adopted a failure-based approach. The focus was on identifying potential failure points and devising strategies to shield against them, ensuring a triumphant landing. We scrutinized scenarios encompassing sensor, engine, algorithm, and calculation failures. Diverse failure scenarios were meticulously calculated and programmed. Additionally, we introduced new simulation test beds, absent previously, to explore various failure possibilities.'

The concept of failure-based design closely aligns with the potent and underrated mental model known as 'Inversion Thinking.' Thinking about a problem from an inverse perspective can unlock new solutions and strategies. The inverse of being right more is being wrong less. The inverse of being right more is being wrong less. This precisely mirrors ISRO's investment in test infrastructure – a step to avoid failures and pave a pathway to success.

How can Inversion Thinking benefit your daily life?

- You can achieve project success by thinking "what would make it successful" or by simply avoiding "what would cause the project to fail" (or both).

- A Tennis player can win a match by hitting winners or simply by avoiding unforced errors (or both).

- A chef creating a delightful dish not only by choosing quality ingredients and following a recipe but also by preventing overcooking or under-seasoning (or both).

- Inversion Thinking is apparent in the Pre-Mortem concept that i heard first from Shreyas Doshi. Unlike a post-mortem—where you discuss what went wrong (and what you can learn from it)—pre-mortems occur earlier in a project’s lifecycle and ask the team to assume that the project has failed. And you prompt the team to come up with the reasons for the failure before project execution begins.

Shane Parrish explained Inversion as 'Avoiding stupidity is simpler than pursuing brilliance.' In practice, it means spending less time trying to be brilliant and more time trying to avoid obvious stupidity.

Does this concept resonate with you?

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