Challenging project risks – with the WILDQARDS No. 5

The WILDQARD Set No. 5 Project Risks is made for managers of design and development projects and contains 64 typical risks that can occur in projects – divided into the categories Timing, Quality, Margin, Legal and Orga.
You will recognize many situations from your own practice. We use these WILDQARDS before and during a project to determine the relevant risks to keep an eye on. A brisk team activity that takes less than 20 minutes, but yields loads of important insights.

When a product is launched, the focus of communication is first on performance and success. No one talks any longer about problems that may have arisen during the course of the project. But you know it: Problems are simply part of everyday life in a project. And they are not necessarily new problems that you encounter over and over again in the course of projects.

Time constraints and poor communication, for example, are classic examples. In order not to blunder into a trap every time, we always transfer our experience and knowledge to new projects. Thus we create a knowledge pool of best practice examples and project management heuristics, which do not only help to prevent worse but also offer valuable suggestions.

Essential in Medical Design

Perhaps we are more attached to risk management because we mainly work in the field of medical design. In this case, risk management is one of the legally required measures to keep harm to life and limb away from users and patients. Decades ago, we started to record risks and problems which we encountered more frequently. “Pain makes you wise” is a valid wisdom but not really applicable for a professional service. Not every individual in a team can enjoy this way of learning. That’s why it is crucial to capture the insights in some way.

However, large amounts of text quickly overwhelm and bore, so we summarized the individual risks in a checklist at first. But still, this exercise is rather dry and when looking through it, you often lack the concentration to actually imagine the risks and their effects. When we did this exercise as a team, we noticed that discussing possible risks not only released more motivation but also gave us new ideas and perspectives regularly.

The ideal form = small cards

The solution? A set of cards that entices a playful use and that we use interactively. Method cards are not a novelty in the creative field and they are used in various ways. In a first draft, we created a large-format, rather bulky set of cards with pictures, titles and further information in the form of text on the backs of the cards. In the further course, we drastically reduced both the size of the cards and the information available on them.

Now each of the 64 cards fits on the palm of your hand, so you can display every card side by side on a table. The WILDQARDS convey their message through only four elements each: topic, category, headline and image. The ingenious text-picture combination on the cards makes you think and sometimes even smile. By omitting information, there is room for your own associations and anecdotes. Instead of lots of text, there is a QR code on the back of the cards that leads to the corresponding website of each card. Here you will find a short description of the risk and possible countermeasures.

Three typical examples for cards from the category of project organization from the WILDQARD Set No. 5 Project Risks, problems that everyone has already experienced.

Especially in the initial phase of a project, the WILDQARDS help you to get a bird’s eye view more easily. In a small team or on your own, you can go through the cards, discuss and sort through which risks are relevant for a project. 64 cards are a large number, so a clear selection is necessary. We recommend laying them out on a positioning cross.

Divided into the fields of risks, problems, goals and results, you can move and arrange the WILDQARDS according to relevance. The discussion about possible sources of errors regularly leads to new strategies that help to avoid them. But even after a project has been completed, a look at the initial considerations can be revealing to recapitulate: Which risks really occurred? Did the countermeasures work?

Is this also available “in digital”?

COVID-19 currently makes it difficult to use the haptics of the cards in a team. In addition, general digitization is shifting the value of tangible work materials to digital. In order to discuss on a digital basis, we use the WILDQARDS on the virtual whiteboard MURAL. Again, you can display them, move them around, and add digital Post-its with further suggestions, actions or notes.

MURAL Positionierungskreuz mit WILDCARDS No. 5
This is how we use the WILDCARDS on the digital MURAL board.

WILDQARDS: our compressed know-how in an easily shareable format!

Now we would like to make this accumulated knowledge available in the form of WILDQARDS No. 5 Project risks and thus save other companies from missteps too. We really like the format so we are already working on more WILDQARD sets and test them in our current projects.

The first three sets were created based on the megatrend map from the zukunftsInstitut. The WILDQARD Set 9 Design Principles can be used to examine in greater detail which specific design principles are more or less relevant for a project. Needs and Values (WILDQARDS No.16) are based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. As the name suggests, they are about the needs and values that must be considered in a design project. Just like the project risks, all WILDQARDS are structured according to the same principle: 64 cards on one theme, consisting of the four elements topic, category, headline and image.


> Here you can buy a set of 64 real cards for 32,- EUR plus VAT and packaging. For digital use, you can also find an overview of the WILDQARDS 5 Project Risks >here.

Thinking Ahead Project 4 | infusion stand: Ivy
Thinking Ahead Project 6 | AlliGo. What to do when an anaphylactic shock occurs?
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Lydia writes about design processes and our medical design projects.

Originally written by Lydia Münstermann, 12. January 2021. Last updated 23. April 2023


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