Some of our most important contributions as professionals come from our ability to generate creative solutions and foster productive debate. In problem-solving, it is crucial to develop strategies that strike a delicate balance between agreement and dissent. This ensures that all perspectives are considered, leading to well-rounded decisions and innovative outcomes, underscoring the devil’s advocate’s vital role in decision-making.
That is why the devil’s advocate role is so valuable; it challenges the status quo, encourages critical thinking, and ultimately strengthens the quality of our solutions. By embracing diverse viewpoints and engaging in constructive dialogue, we can harness collaboration’s power and drive meaningful progress.
By assuming this role, individuals can bring fresh insights, identify potential pitfalls, and encourage critical thinking. This helps to ensure a more comprehensive evaluation of options and ultimately leads to more informed and well-rounded decisions. This individual should be able to provide alternative perspectives, raise thought-provoking questions, and stimulate healthy debate and discussion. Having someone with a diverse background and a willingness to challenge the status quo can significantly contribute to the overall decision-making process and help avoid group thinking.
Dr. Michael Roberto, author of Why Great Leaders Don’t Take Yes for an Answer: Managing for Conflict and Consensus, advocates a more structured approach when using this role and it starts by answering the following three questions:
- Who is going to be the devil’s advocate? To ensure a fair and open discussion, having a devil’s advocate who can express dissenting opinions is important.
- Rotate the role of the devil’s advocate among team members so that everyone has a chance to play this role.
- Assign two people to express dissent rather than one so that the devil’s advocate is not alone in their views.
- Select people who do not have a personal agenda or vested interest in the discussion so that they can provide an objective perspective.
- When is it appropriate to use the devil’s advocate approach?
- Avoid making hasty judgments in the initial stages of problem-solving.
- Use the “yes and” approach instead of dismissing ideas with a “yeah, but” response.
- Critique ideas only after generating a diverse range of options
- How to play the role of a devil’s advocate?
- Instead of advocating for a specific solution, try asking thoughtful questions.
- Focus on generating fresh options and ideas.
- Assist the group in reframing the problem at hand.
- Be humble and acknowledge any areas where you lack knowledge or information.
All in all, employing the devil’s advocate role can be a powerful tool to help promote and encourage critical thinking and diverse perspectives within a team environment. It is important that individuals understand the goals of the role, how and when to play, and the varying perspectives it brings to any discussion. The opportunity to raise thought-provoking questions and challenge assumptions can ultimately benefit businesses by leading to more productive decisions and solutions.
For more decision-making tips and techniques, listen to my interviews with Mike Roberto, ‘Tools and Techniques to Improve Your Decision Making‘ (Episode 47), and Kathy Pearson, ‘Decision Making Mistakes All Leaders Make.” (Episode 17) Also, check out my previous articles on decision-making, ‘Leaders are not Good at Understanding What They Don’t Know‘ and ‘Make Better Decisions.’
ABOUT CHARLES GOOD
Charles Good is the president of The Institute for Management Studies, which provides transformational learning experiences that drive behavioral change and develop exceptional leaders. Charles is an innovative and resourceful leader who specializes in bringing people together to develop creative organizational and talent strategies that enable business results. His areas of expertise include assessing organizational skill gaps and leading the design, creation and delivery of high impact, innovative learning solutions that achieve business goals.