Devil’s Advocate

We’ve all heard the term Devil’s Advocate before – but here’s how you can turn a conversational phrase into a tool for spotting problems in an idea:

Appoint one person to play Devil’s Advocate in a discussion. Their job is to find reasons not to agree with the group’s decision. Tell the Devil’s Advocate that the rest of the group:

  • are inclined to believe first, then find evidence to confirm their beliefs.
  • tend to perceive what they expect to perceive
  • overlook information that doesn’t fit
  • easily get wedded to their stated positions

Ask the Devil’s Advocate to prove the opposite of what the group thinks, either by:

  • drawing different conclusions from the same evidence
  • or finding overlooked evidence

Credit: the tradition of appointing a Devil’s Advocate goes back to the 16th century church, but has been brought up to date by military Red Team planners.